Chelsea striker, Fernando Torres says he is more mature and focused and owes a debt of gratitude to Liverpool, writes Sid Lowe.
Fernando Torres has admitted that he became exactly the kind of player he had always despised when he reached a point when he did not care whether Chelsea won or lost. The Spain striker said he had found himself since the dark days of last season and had learnt to become a different player to serve the team above himself. He also insisted that he had no regrets about joining Liverpool, but admitted that the way he left Anfield was "not the best".
"Halfway through last season I distanced myself from the values I had grown up with," Torres told El Pais.
Catharsis and confession came together in a remarkable interview with the paper's reporter Lu Martin, which revealed the Spaniard's self-awareness and hinted at the emotional journey he had undertaken.
"I had teammates who didn't care if the team won or lost because they were not playing," Torres said. "I never wanted to be like that. [But] one day I discovered that I was like them – that it didn't matter if we won or lost if I was not playing. I wasn't part of the group. I discovered that I was not happy because I had stopped being what I had always wanted to be.
"But I learned to look at myself and to realise that the only person that can change is you. The only person who can say 'You're making mistakes; you've got to do something' is you."
Torres said he found that his game had changed under André Villas-Boas and this contributed to his frustration, but with time he found satisfaction in a more selfless role.
"I became a different player because I was serving the team. It was to my personal detriment, but it was the only way to play. At times I thought: 'I'm going to run in behind the defender; I'm going to offer myself and go into the space.' And I could go 70 minutes without touching the ball. If I played in my [natural] position, I wasn't involved in the game. What do I do? It was so different to what I was used to with [Rafa] Benítez that I was not happy and you could tell.
"When we changed coach [and Roberto Di Matteo took over] it was a bit more similar [to Benitez's style]. That had a good side to it, which was that I learned I became a better player.
"I can now do things that I was not able to do before. You can be the player that your coach wants, but you're not the player that people expect you to be. I spoke to Steve Holland, the [Chelsea] assistant, a lot and we worked hard on it."
Torres continued: "I became more mature. I came to know myself better and became conscious of the fact that it depends on me. I learned to be more self-critical, to understand everyone better and to accept the situation. I learned that if we won it didn't matter that I hadn't played. I had to keep working. You can settle into a comfort zone or you can accept your role and [Paulo Ferreira] taught me to say to myself: 'This is the situation now.' He always trains as hard as anyone; he always has a smile; he is always close to the young players. He has taught me a lot.
"When I retire, the only thing that concerns me is that no one can say that I was a bad teammate or disrespectful or self-important."
Asked whether he would go to England again if he could turn back the clock, Torres replied: "Definitely. Not just because of the professional experience, but the personal one too. You start to see things in a different way; your perspective gets opened up. I owe Liverpool a huge amount – to the people, to the men in charge, to Benítez and his staff, to the city. Liverpool is a fundamental part of my life. They don't remember me that way, but time will change that.
"I could not have chosen a better place to go when I left Atletico. The other day, when the news broke about Hillsborough, I felt emotional. I have experienced that; I know what the people have been through; I have seen them cry. I've lived that; I made it mine. This has arrived too late but it's another step [in the right direction]. And it is things like that that playing for Liverpool gives you: it's a feeling.
"I decided to leave because I had to take a step forward. It wasn't the best way to have gone, but nor were things exactly as they were sold [to people]. One day the truth will come out. In a sporting sense, nothing was happening; a new project was needed. We talked about that about growth. My son is a Liverpool fan and he was already kicking a ball before he was one. He was born in the football city; he had no choice." – © Guardian News & Media 2012