/ 19 May 2008

Torres looks to break Spain’s title pain

Fernando Torres has established a reputation as vaunted as his own country, Spain, in terms of footballing ability, but like his homeland, equally pressing on his shoulders is the lack of a major title.

The 24-year-old is just the latest in a long line of top strikers from Spain to go into battle in search of a senior international title after a superb maiden campaign for Premiership underachievers Liverpool, where his scoring exploits brought no silverware to the club.

No trophies in his first season following a €40-million transfer from Atletico Madrid might seem poor reward initially, but the blonde-haired striker did all he could to see Liverpool break the stranglehold that Manchester United and Chelsea have over the Premiership.

No shame to him, though, having scoring 23 league goals to equal former Manchester United forward Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record for a foreigner playing their first season in England’s top division.

For Spanish football fans that would be nothing new, as the senior side has won nothing since they hosted the 1964 European Championships, but Torres is seen, along with Valencia’s David Villa, as the potential breaker of the title ice given his ability to score goals from anywhere.

He at least knows what it is like to win a title internationally, having displayed his talents when being leading scorer and also judged best player for the European Championships under-16 tournament, which Spain won in 2001, and progressing to the European under-19 title in 2002.

From then on he has hardly looked back as senior international recognition came hard on its heels with a call up by then coach Inaki Saez for Euro 2004, which ended in one appearance for him and yet more disappointment for the Spanish as they went out in the first round.

The 2006 World Cup yielded a richer harvest as under Luis Aragones both him and Villa scored three apiece but then succumbed to a 3-1 defeat by eventual finalists France in the knockout stages.

Whilst Torres has done wonders for Liverpool this past season, he goes into the Euro Championships owing his country a few favours as he has not added to the 15 goals in 47 internationals since September 2007.

Thus if Spain are to finally pass from ditching their perennial underachievers tag to title winners, the striker previously known as ”the child” and now nicknamed ”Kid Torres” will have to get his shooting boots on. — Sapa-AFP