Fernando Torres says being benched by Chelsea after his U.K. record 50 million pound ($78.9 million) transfer turned him into a better player. The Spaniard is determined not to be a spectator again.
Speaking ahead of the London team’s Super Cup game against his former team Atletico Madrid tomorrow, Torres said being left out for as long as eight straight games last season taught him “a lot of things” about himself.
Torres became captain of his home town team Atletico as a teenager. He moved to Liverpool, where he scored 65 goals in 102 games, prompting Chelsea’s billionaire owner Roman Abramovich to pay the record transfer amount. He didn’t find success in London last season. During his worst run, Torres went five months and 25 straight games without scoring.
“I was in a very different situation last season because I’d never been there before,” Torres told a press conference. “When you’re there you understand what people go through on the bench. It was a new experience. I learned a lot of things about that, which made me a better teammate.”
Torres was a substitute in last season’s Champions League final in which Didier Drogba’s late goal took the match to a penalty shootout. Chelsea went on to win and gain its first European title. Torres was brought into the game by coach Roberto Di Matteo but didn’t take a penalty. Drogba has moved to China, allowing Torres to spearhead the team’s attack this season.
The Spaniard has scored twice so far in the new campaign. The west London team is leading the Premier League after starting with three wins. That follows success with Spain at the 2012 European Championship, in which Torres finished joint top scorer and the national team retained its title.
“I’m playing more minutes and the confidence is back,” Torres said. “In these 18 months, I’ve become a better player. I have played in a different way to that I played at Liverpool. I can play more outside the box, associating more with my teammates. I gave a lot of assists last season. I can mix it more. This season I’m sure we’ll see that.”
Torres said he remains an Atletico Madrid fan. If he extends his scoring run against his hometown team tomorrow he says he won’t celebrate.
“It’s not only the club that trained me, developed me, but built me as a person,” he said. “Everyone knows I’m an Atletico fan and this will be an exceptional day, but we’ll be trying to win. I have to leave these emotions behind. Afterwards, I can go back to being an Atletico fan.”