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If Torres goes, Liverpool should heed Spanish lessons
If the excited reports on the 24-hour channels are correct, Fernando Torres may soon arrive at Chelsea’s training ground to seal a move that will leave Liverpool in a dangerous situation — under pressure to sign high-profile reinforcements and with wodges of money to spend as the deadline fast approaches.
Kenny Dalglish accepted on Monday that transfers are part of football and the internet chatter suggests many fans have reached the conclusion that Torres may have reached the end of the Anfield road.
There are indeed plenty of reasons why Liverpool may reflect that the time has come to sell Torres, 50 million of them you might say, but if they do agree to part with the Spain striker they should consider a bit of Spanish history before going out to spend their new found riches too quickly.
Losing an iconic player can be traumatic and perhaps the worst case of how to compensate came from Barcelona back in 2000.
Barcelona found themselves forced to let the Portuguese forward walk out when Real Madrid’s newly elected president Florentino Perez paid the 10,000,000 pesetas ($56 million at the time) buy-out clause in his contract (plus VAT). Barcelona had a new president of their own in Joan Gaspart and his response has gone down in Spanish soccer folklore as an object lesson in how not to spend an unexpected windfall.
First, Gaspart bowed to pressure from the local media and spent a ridiculous $20 million on buying Gerard, a former Barcelona youth team player, back from Valencia. The president then went on a shopping trip to London and came back with Marc Overmars and Emmanuel Petit for a joint-fee of $38 million.
Finally, Gaspart sat down on the floor of his new and still empty office and submitted to “a little bit of madness” as he agreed to new and vastly improved terms in the contract of his remaining star player, Rivaldo, just to make sure there was no chance of him following Figo out.
None of those three newly signed players are remembered fondly by Barcelona fans, who saw pretty quickly that they were not of the same quality as Figo. And while Rivaldo gave two more seasons of good service to the club he could not carry the team by himself and it was a case of diminishing returns on a player earning more and more.
To make it worse, as Barcelona continued to decline, Gaspart repeated his mistakes time and again, with the likes of Javier Saviola, Fabio Rochemback and Geovanni coming for transfer fees far more impressive than their track records.
If Torres does go, Liverpool should think carefully before spending all the money on players who are not of the same calibre as Torres, however much they are currently being talked up in the media. A cool head is required when there’s so much money burning a hole in your pocket and Liverpool should be prepared to wait.
What really gets the goat of Barcelona fans is knowing that if Gaspart had held his nerve and kept the purse strings tight he might have been able to get Zinedine Zidane, who would leave Juventus for Real Madrid in 2001. Zidane was that rarest of things in the soccer scene at the time — a player who was even better than the one they lost in Luis Figo.
If Liverpool agree to let Torres go it should be because they have found a striker as good as, or even better than, the one they are losing. If they are convinced Andy Carroll is that man, good luck to them and him (see UPDATE below).
If they are clutching at straws they would be better to keep the money and wait to see if real quality becomes available in the close season.
UPDATE: Liverpool have agreed a British record fee with Newcastle for Carroll, so clearly Dalglish has no doubts (and he should know a thing or two about strikers). I suspect a lot of Liverpool fans will be happy with the transfer business of the day, given the potential of Carroll. Time will tell…
UPDATE 2: And Torres has gone… No transfer fee but presumably quite close to the 50 million being reported. The money has all gone on Suarez and Carroll. Will they be more Eto’o and Ronaldinho than Overmars and Petit?
PHOTO: Fernando Torres smiles during a photocall at Liverpool’s Anfield stadium in Liverpool July 4, 2007. REUTERS/Phil Noble