2010 World Cup Player Profile: Fernando Torres, Mas Que El Nino

Why You'll Like Him

Icy cool like his formerly streaked-locks, you’ll love his calmness in front of goal.

Why You'll Hate Him

Torres used to be hated for his hair, with trademark locks held in place by a headband, but now that he's cleaned up for the championship photographs, there's really no reason to dislike this kid.

Practically born with a football at his feet, Fernando Torres joined his first team at age five, and inherited his grandfather’s love for Atlético Madrid. So when he signed his first contract with Atlético at the age of fifteen, Torres truly realized a dream to play for his boyhood club—although childhood nostalgia couldn’t keep him from moving to Liverpool for the start of the 2007/2008 season. In fact, he even revealed the phrase "We’ll never walk alone" emblazoned on his captain’s armband while he still played in Spain.

El Niño — The Kid — certainly has a flair for the dramatic. During his first World Cup, he scored three goals, but it was in Euro 2008 that Torres truly found the spotlight, scoring Spain’s only goal in their final against Germany. After ensuring that La Furia Roja lifted the European trophy, Fernando is going to be searching for even greater glory, and nothing less than helping Spain win the World Cup will suffice.

If anyone is going to stand out in the star-studded Spanish lineup, odds are that it will be Torres. After all, this is the man who scored a hat-trick in just seventeen minutes in a Confederations Cup match against New Zealand in 2009. But if this summer is to be even better than last, Torres will need to stay at full strength. After being pulled from a match in April due to "exhaustion", he underwent knee surgery and missed the rest of the Premier League season. Perhaps it was his persistent injury issues that prevented Torres from scoring in the eight qualifying matches in which he was involved. Whatever the reason, Spain’s golden boy will want to overcome any lingering doubts about his fitness and truly shine.

Fact Sheet

Age: 26

Position: Striker

Club Teams: Atlético Madrid (2001-2007), Liverpool FC (2007-present)

National Team Debut: September 6, 2003 in a friendly against Portugal

Caps: 72

World Cup(s): 2006

Club World

"We bought the lad from sunny Spain, he gets the ball and scores again," sing the fans in the Kop about Liverpool’s star striker. Torres caught the eye of the Premier League with his impressive performances at Atlético, where he spent twelve years of his young career. He made club history as the youngest player ever to take the pitch for the senior side when he debuted at age 17, and found his name in the record books again two years later when named the youngest Atlético captain at age 19.

Although Torres made an obvious impact on the Madrid side, with his prolific scoring helping the side stay up and even earn the opportunity to play in the Intertoto Cup, the club’s failure to qualify for even a UEFA Cup spot meant that Torres found himself the target of much transfer speculation in 2007. In the end, Liverpool picked up El Niño for around £22 million, setting the stage for an ironic Europa League semi-final two seasons later.

Prior to Liverpool’s loss to Atlético in 2010 (in which Torres could not play due to injury), Fernando scored 33 goals in 2007/2008, his first season as a Red. Persistent hamstring and knee injuries plagued the striker over his next two seasons, but he remains one of the most talented finishers in the league, managing to score 22 goals in 32 games last season.

National Team

When playing on both the U-16 and U-19 sides, Torres helped the Spanish youth squads win their respective UEFA tournaments. In fact, it was Fernando that scored the winning goal in each of the tournaments. Naturally El Niño found himself called for his senior debut at just nineteen years old, and at twenty was named to the squad for Euro 2004. Although Torres saw the pitch late in the deciding game against Portugal, he was unable to do more than hit the post, and Spain failed to emerge from the group stages.

In 2006 World Cup qualification play, Torres was the top scorer for La Roja, with seven goals in eleven games. He scored his first international hat-trick in the lead up to the cup, but only scored three goals in total during the tournament, with Spain going out in the round of 16.

While Spain tends to have a reputation for not quite living up to their potential, in 2008 they won the world’s second biggest prize when they were crowned European Champions. Torres was a dominant presence in the tournament, from setting up David Villa’s goal in the first match to scoring the winner against Germany. By now, these game-winning finishes have almost become routine (this Aston Villa fan certainly didn’t appreciate it when he scored the winner against her team after 90+ minutes), but if Spain can take advantage of Torres’ theatrical moments, the cup might well be theirs.

What to Look For

Clinical precision and impeccable finishing. Oddly enough, Torres started his football career as a goalkeeper, but now he torments them. El Niño has a remarkable ability to play with his back toward goal, catching defenses unawares when he slips the ball into the net. And what would a world class striker be if he could only use his feet? Torres’ aerial abilities complete his perfect forward package. But really, it’s the skill of the entire team that makes him look so talented, so keep an eye out for the set-up plays and beautiful midfield work that allows Torres to be in just the right place to stick out a toe and tap the ball in.

Kirsten Schlewitz is always at just the right place around SBNation Soccer, where see will be contributing during the 2010 World Cup. You can read more of Kirsten's content at 7500 to Holte, SB Nation's Aston Villa blog.

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