Liverpool miss Torres more than Atletico
We were treated to the all too rare sight of rival fans standing and sportingly applauding each other at the end of the Europa League semi-final first-leg between Atletico Madrid and Liverpool at the Calderon on Thursday.
The Spanish club’s 1-0 victory had not poisoned the atmosphere, as so often happens, and both sets of supporters sang out the name of former Atletico striker Fernando Torres, now at Liverpool, to the tune of “I love you, Baby.”
Torres still holds a special place in the hearts of the followers of his hometown club, but the sense of loss appeared to be stronger among the English travelling fans.
Liverpool were toothless and had little idea of how to break down a side who have hardly set La Liga alight this season. Quique Sanchez Flores’s team lie mid-table after three consecutive league defeats.
Before the match, Atletico’s players said the suspension of their Argentine striker Sergio “Kun” Aguero was a greater loss than Torres’s knee injury was to Liverpool. The evidence of Thursday night would suggest otherwise.
Torres, who came up through the Atletico youth ranks, gave up on the club to transfer to Merseyside in 2007, but fans didn’t begrudge him the move. They wished him all the best in his quest to improve himself and win titles, which looked to be a long way out of reach for an inconsistent Atletico.
Three years on and Torres is a better player. He scored the only goal in Spain’s triumph over Germany in the final of Euro 2008 but club success continues to elude him under Rafael Benitez.
Without every appearing to really deserve it, Atletico are in a King’s Cup final and looking good for a Europa League final as well.
Before Thursday night, the La Liga side had won only three times in 14 Champions League and Europa League matches this season.
Last year, Torres missed both of the Champions League group stage clashes between the clubs with injury, when Atletico fans chanted his name during both matches.
On Thursday, a new product of the Atletico youth system, goalkeeper David de Gea, was hailed by the home fans to the same “I love you, Baby” tune and they reserved their homage to their former darling for after the final whistle.
Atletico may be finally learning to live without Torres and it would be ironic if his former club went on to shake off their ‘perpetual losers’ tag by lifting one or even two trophies this season while Liverpool look enviously on.
PHOTO: Liverpool’s Fernando Torres celebrates scoring against Benfica during their Europa League quarter-final second leg in Liverpool, April 8, 2010. REUTERS/Phil Noble.