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Fernando Torres: “Madrid was killing me”


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Fernando Torres: “Madrid was killing me”



In an in-depth interview to Spanish daily newspaper ‘El Pais’, the Spain and Liverpool forward talked openly about the national team, Liverpool, life on Merseyside and South Africa. Nearly no stone was left unturned in what was the forward’s final interview of the season before some well-deserved rest ahead of the 2009/10 season.


- What still remains of the Kid?

What does the word entail? When I arrived at Atletico's first team I was just a kid, I guess I was just like any other young player who gets a call-up from the first team. The nickname ‘Kid’ stuck, and by the time I was 18, I was captain. It was too much responsibility and it was also an unnecessary decision. A club with such an important past and history can’t afford luxuries like that, but Atletico Madrid was going through a rough time both economically speaking and on the pitch, as the results weren’t going the club’s way.


- Now you are 25 years old, and you are one of the captains of the national team, fourth or fifth down on the pecking order. Has the lesson been learnt?


I’ve had time to progress and evolve. I also work alongside experienced teammates, and I can learn from being around them. I still share the dressing room with players who were here the day I first arrived. At Atletico it was very different. Just three years had passed and there was no-one left from the original squad of players.

- Has the Confederations Cup made you realise just how popular you are?

You just have to go to Anfield. I’m used to receiving people’s warmth abroad from Spain. This is all thanks to the impact Liverpool and the Premier League have. English football is huge, it’s not due the players who ply their trade in England, it’s down to the organisation, attitude, professionalism, impact... The stadiums, which are in excellent condition, are always packed. The distribution of television rights is the same for all the teams- this is very important. There’s a lot that can be learned from how things are done here. Other domestic competitions in foreign countries may have very good individual players, Real Madrid have just signed Cristiano Ronaldo for example, and there’s also the likes of Messi, Xavi ... but the organisation, and how the Premier League is portrayed and considered world-wide is way ahead of both the ‘Liga’ and the ‘Calcio’.


- Were you surprised by Cristiano Ronaldo’s move?


He has his reasons, he might want a new challenge, or to experience something different. He has done it all at Manchester United, and basically there was little more he could do there.


- Are you worried that Manchester United now have 94 million euros to sign players?


It would have been better if the original money had been used in Spain, but then again, the fact that it came to the Premier League stops Spanish teams strengthening their squads. However our great rival now has plenty of money to go about strengthening their squad, but it’s going to be a hard task to find players like Carlos Tevez or Cristiano Ronaldo.


- Can Liverpool afford to sell Xabi Alonso?


It would be a great..., well, the best way to put it is that it would be a tough blow. I want the best for Xabi. He keeps things to himself so I don’t know what is going on in his head. He still has three years left to run on his contract and I would like him to stay at the club. It would be a great loss were he to leave the club.


- You once said that Luis Aragones was always on top of you. What about Rafa Benitez?


Benitez gets less involved with the personal side of things. Luis is a motivator, and if you don’t keep on your toes, he’ll be on your back. Rafa concentrates more on the professional side of things. He tries to improve every minor detail and movement you carry out during the course of a game, and he also explains the reasons behind his decisions. He’s obsessed that you understand what you are doing and why. He’s not happy that you do things just because he tells you that something has to be done. ‘Do it like this. Do you understand why you are being told to do so? No? We’ll go through again then’. I remember when I signed for the club people were questioning me as a goalscorer. I received criticism because I wasn’t getting goals. The first thing he told me was that I was signed to score goals. Benitez is adamant that I live in the area because that’s where you get goals. That was the first thing he told me, the wing is for the wingers, and that the striker should be focussed on the two rival centre-backs. The Spain team play very differently, we have to be constantly on the move. Back in England for example I have to draw the centre-back out of place so that Steve Gerrard can burst through.


- Are English defenders hard?

There are tough physically, and also a bit undisciplined. It’s harder to create a goalscoring chance when you play against them, but if you can draw them out of position they become more vulnerable. Manchester United and Chelsea are both very competitive teams because they have both strength and order at the back. If a team in England has quality in attack, they can be very a combative team.


- So is that what Liverpool are missing?


We miss not having players who can drop back and play between the strikers and midfielders, players like Tevez or Rooney. At home when you play against side that sit back, players like the two I just mentioned are capable of unlocking a defence. Liverpool have missed out on winning the league because of their record against teams that finish mid-table. I think we need players like for example Iniesta, Silva, Cazorla, Mata... quality players that can operate between the midfield and attack.

- Do you understand Rafa when he speaks to English, or does he speak to you in Spanish?


If there are people around, Benitez always speaks in English. He’ll only speak to me in Spanish when we are alone. When I arrived, I had no clue at what time things were happening or where I had to go…I couldn’t understand anything that was said. Thankfully Alvaro, Arbeloa, Xabi and Pepe Reina were there to help out. I remember that Pepe once said to me to: ‘get ready to have fun’.


- Was Pepe Reina right then?


I asked him about Anfield, and he replied that: “I doesn’t matter what I tell you, you have to see it for yourself.” On the day of my debut, just before the matched kicked-off against Chelsea, Pepe came up to me, you could hear the fans chanting ‘You'll never walk alone’, and said: 'This is what I meant, enjoy the experience’ So you can imagine how I felt the day I heard them chant a song dedicated to me!


- Do English fans follow the ‘Liga’?


There’s a lot of interest, and this year there’s been a special interest in Barcelona. Everyone saw that they were better than Manchester United. There’s no envy or jealousy though because everyone feels that their league is much stronger, you just have to look back to see how the teams have done in the Champions League.


- We have talked about Luis and Rafa Benitez, what about Vicente Del Bosque?


I get on very well with him. He’s another member of the group. Luis Aragones was also a bit like that, but there was a line that you wouldn’t cross. Luis was the boss and he would step back and keep a distance if he felt it was needed. We have a closer relationship with Vicente Del Bosque and with him in charge the feeling in the camp is more relaxed.


- What did he say to you all during the half-time teamtalk against the USA?


The same thing he warned us about before the game… Things turned out just like he said they might: they are a tough team, they would put us under a lot of pressure starting with their forwards, and that they wouldn’t give us any time on the ball… We can’t say that we weren’t warned, so there are no excuses. Things happened just how he said they might. The manager thought that it might happen, but during the teamtalk he tried to lift our spirits and told us to be patient when we went back out.


- Why did Spain lose?


They scored both of their chances and we failed to convert any of the 29 chances we carved out. You look back at the game and say to yourself ‘we would have won nine times out of ten’. Had this have happened at the World Cup we would have felt very differently. This is part of the learning curve. We didn’t do anything wrong against the USA, but if we lost, it’s because there’s something that we could have done better.


- Do you agree with the phrase ‘It’s better to lose now than later’?

I believe that it’s never a good time to lose. I get annoyed, and it takes a while for me to get over it. Some players are capable of picking-up teammates just five minutes after losing, however it takes me longer to recover after a defeat. We are all different. When I was captain, I was told that I had: ‘to lift my teammates spirits’. But I just wasn’t able to. I don’t like losing and the feeling can last for three days.


- Some say you come across a bit cold.


I don’t know. It depends what you mean by cold. I don’t normally show my feelings, it’s just not me. It’s not something premeditated, I actually find it hard to open-up. I keep things to myself because I don’t want shoulder anybody else with my problems.


- How have things changed for Fernando since moving to Merseyside?


The way I view things has changed a lot in the last two years. Since I joined Liverpool I have enjoyed my time a lot more. I am no longer carrying all the responsibility I shouldered from my time at Atletico Madrid. I was the captain and a supporter at the same time, and the combination was unbearable. In Liverpool my quality of life has improved. I can do things here that would be unthinkable in Madrid. It was as if having come from Madrid meant that I would have everything I needed to be happy, but was nothing like that. Madrid was killing me. I couldn’t go to the cinema, shopping; the team weren’t doing well, it was a constant anguish. Here it’s the opposite: you get used to winning, you can go out and about, the people on the street respect you privacy…

- You have just been in South Africa. How was it?


I was very curious to visit South Africa, and I have been pleasantry surprised by what I have seen. We thought that it was going to be a bit of a disaster, that we wouldn’t be able to go out onto the street and that the infrastructure would be poor. They still have to improve plenty of things, but the foundations are there. I believes that it is important that the African continent hosts a World Cup finals. I am overjoyed that this continent, a place that regularly receives poor treatment has the chance to prove to the World that is more than capable of organising the World Cup, just like any other country. I remember watching the first game when the fans seemed to boo Booth. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing…


- You weren’t the only one to make that mistake...


When you look back at the country’s past, with all the racial problems and tensions that existed, and you hear the fans booing their white player, it made me feel quite scared. I logged onto the internet and soon found what I was looking for. To my relief they were not booing him for the colour of his skin, it was because of his name (Booth). He’s considered a local hero. You have to admire the strength of the South African people to put the past behind them. It is a lesson to us all. I really enjoyed meeting the locals, especially the children- they were gobsmacked when they met me. South Africa welcomed me with open arms and with plenty of warmth, everyone had a smile on their face, and the people are full of optimism…I leave with a very high opinion of the country and its people.

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