A few days ago I spoke of the acute tensions affecting that formerly boyish, now visibly creasing with world-weariness, Signor Fernando Torres. His is a story absurdly, almost hypnotically full of the contradictions of celebrity life. He is outrageously wealthy and talented; he is handsome, personable and has – unusually for a togger player? – the look of a sensitive human about him. But quietly, for a near-worryingly long period of time, he has been …shredded.
By that I mean that his confidence has been denuded to a mesh-like frailty. I have speculated – as a formerly prolific inside-forward/centre midfielder – that the principal emotion betraying the striker in mid-strike is a kind of glassy-eyed succumbing to a need for things to be over. Over for better or worse. Therefore, rather than showing either devastatingly confident instinct or devastating composure (this latter for me the absolute sign of class as well as goalscoring proficiency) the centre-forward does the difficult bit…but apocalyptically misses the yawning net. Receiving, in the process, a terrifying challenge to his previously invincible belief as well as the bitter mockery of the opposition support.
In the last week or two the cruel peaks and troughs of Fernado’s being – him being a top level footballer player and all – have been as publicly excruciating as the most exploitative X Factor audition. His level of performance has lurched from the sharp and instinctive (occasionally) to the raw embarrassing. But Fernando we know, we understand, should be passed fluffing his lines completely, right? He’s so been there, with all that pressure, all that expectation and worship because he has been brilliant, he has been as good as there is… which makes it news, which makes it poignant.
Today Torres again showed what are destined to be labelled ‘flashes’ for the second game on the trot. And crucially, perhaps, he scored. But then he lunged into a poor challenge – following, we presume prolonged verbals from opponents, who had no doubt quoted observations from my previous blog – and was summarily despatched from the proceedings.
It was an almost inevitably tragic (with the usual caveats) event in the accelerating sequence of almost cartoon-like Fernandoslots we have all been seeing and hearing on hourly sports bulletins for the last several months. And it makes us wonder what comes next. After the ban.
Will it be a prolonged period on the bench? Will it be, given football’s propensity for exposing the sensitive, a gift to heartless centre-halves the Premiership over? Will it be a catalyst for further dissent amongst fellow players, only some of whom are likely to have been truly supportive during Torres’ difficult times at both Liverpool and now Chelsea. We can’t know. But it seems beyond unlikely that Fernando will simply be spurred by a sending off into getting a grip. I wonder if or how he will do that, at all.