“Mira, we can probably cover a million euros a year. Maybe a little more – we’ll sell some shirts. But … shit, you know why you’re calling. We can’t pay much for a guy who won’t play. Some Copa ties next year. A few minutes against Almeria, or Cordoba. I say this respectfully, because he means a lot to us, but with FFP and all, we just can’t afford to pay much for him.”
This is how I imagine the conversation between Atlético and Chelsea. Andrea Berta gets a call, Michael Emenalo asks about the kids, and then he starts begging.
“No, no, no, Andrea. You’re doing us the favor. Fucking, Milan. He was supposed to be their problem. But we know we need to take a hit. What’s your backup keeper on? Or maybe, 10 euros a freckle. Just give is that. We’ll cover the rest of his wages. And we’ll stay away from Koke. Just do this for, man. We gotta get rid of him.”
Chelsea would let anybody take Fernando Torres, but Torres has all the leverage. He doesn’t need playing time. His legacy’s already set int stone. And staying sharp for international duty? Ha! All he needs is somebody to keep paying one of the worst contracts in soccer history. He’ll give it a try at place like Milan, but the traditional places that are willing to fork out a premium – your Russias, Qatars, and Chinas of the world? Hell, no. He already got his payday in London.
Hence, after four unsuccessful months in Milan, we’re back to Atlético, only this time, the Spanish champions seem to be listening. Despite having a number of forwards capable of outperforming the former captain, Atleti’s ready to entertain a return, something that develop into a Michael Scott win-win-win. Chelsea gets something (anything) while covering most of the cost, Atlético can sell shirts and bring back a hero, while Torres can placate his terrible play with life in some friendly confines.
But there is another club from Torres’s past that can check those all those boxes, one that actually needs a striker. Whether that’s enough for Liverpool to try and turn back time is another question, but at this point, Chelsea probably wouldn’t care about selling within league. Given how bad Liverpool’s strikers have been (and the eternally broken nature of Daniel Sturridge), Torres may be worth the gamble.
That’s the kind of language we usually reserve for 36-year-olds looking for jobs. But Fernando Torres is only 30. And not so long ago, he convinced somebod $12 million a year. He should be useful, if not outright good. Instead, he’s on Craigslist: “Free. Will help move. Just get this damn thing out of my living room.”
It’s all part of a contract that maybe the worst asset in sports.” Twelve million a year, guaranteed, untradable (there are no “trades” in soccer), with only a fragment of the competition able to absorb his cost. If Chelsea’s revenue streams weren’t so robust, a.) it never would have made this deal, but b.) Torres would be debilitating, in addition to a disaster.
The only thing that makes Atlético’s scenario worth talking about is Diego Simeone. Cholo makes everything more intriguing, but given what he’s done with Atleti, is it ludicrous to think he might turn Torres around? Couldn’t he fill him with the same drive and confidence that’s fueled Atlético’s rise, wrap him in a Will Hunting hug and tell him it’s not his fault, before forging a nice complement to Mario Mandzukic?
Put another way, what’s crazier: Fernando Torres returning to Atlético to become 50 percent of the player he was with Liverpool, or Atleti winning La Liga and making the Champions League final in the same year … then staying within reach of the big two the following season after losing their best goal scorer and keeper? That kind of juxtaposition is a bullshit of justifying anything, but this is what it’s come to – a grasping at chewed through straws.
* – Note: I posted the question about sports’ worst asset to Twitter and got a quick response (before deleting the Tweet because … typo). Grantland’s Mike Goodman won, quickly: