Fernando Torres’s days at Chelsea numbered
Mourinho’s team selection for PSG clash showed his lack of faith in the Spaniard who is destined to be sold as in the summer
Chelsea’s Fernando Torres looks dejected after seeing his side concede their third goal during the Champions League quarter-final defeat to Paris St Germain at the Parc des Princes, Paris. Photo: Mike Egerton/Pa
Jose Mourinho’s words have spoken pretty loudly about the frustration he has felt over his strikers at Chelsea this season but his actions in Paris on Wednesday night trumped everything. Rather abruptly, an anticipated summer reshuffle has threatened to become a revamp.
Plenty has been said about the manager’s decision to field a team for the Champions League quarter-final first-leg tie at Paris Saint-Germain without a recognised striker, and with the attacking midfielder Andre Schurrle charged with linking the play from the apex of the formation.
The move was not a disaster, with Chelsea growing into the contest in the first half, and it had no bearing on the horrible moment in injury time at the end of the match when the PSG substitute Javier Pastore went from going nowhere on the byline to beating two Chelsea players and then the goalkeeper, Petr Cech, at the near post to secure a 3-1 victory.
Mourinho raged and, although the club famously overcame a 3-1 away deficit in the last 16 against Napoli in 2012 en route to winning the trophy, the challenge feels rather more unforgiving against PSG.
The repercussions of Schurrle’s selection up front were savage, and particularly for Torres. The Spaniard is a World Cup winner, a European Championship winner and a Champions League winner. Yet Mourinho, in one of the key fixtures of the season, preferred a player with next to no experience in the role.
When Torres replaced Schurrle in the 59th minute, he looked lost, his confidence again at a low ebb. Mourinho had been unhappy with his performance from the start in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace and it felt as though Paris represented a tipping point. Mourinho does not have faith in Torres when it matters most.
In the short-term, with Samuel Eto’o out with hamstring trouble – he is battling to be fit for Tuesday’s second leg against PSG – Mourinho may need Torres for tomorrow’s visit of Stoke City, when Chelsea will attempt to revive their Premier League title challenge. But in the summer Torres will be on the list of players Mourinho is happy to sell.
Demba Ba, the third-choice striker, will be on offer while Eto’o, signed as a one-year stop-gap last summer after the failed pursuit of Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, is expected to depart as a free agent. Even Romelu Lukaku, currently on loan at Everton, faces an uncertain Chelsea future. Everton and Tottenham Hotspur are keen on a permanent deal.
Mourinho had given vent to his feelings about his strikers after the Palace game and did so again in Paris. He might wonder how Chelsea have come so far this season when his strikers have managed a return of only 25 goals in all competitions.
His thoughts have drifted towards a summer upgrade, with Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa the prime target. Torres could be used as a bargaining chip in a deal with his former club, and so could the goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who has been on loan at Atletico from Chelsea since 2011.
Mourinho also likes the Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandzukic, whose status will surely be affected by the arrival of Robert Lewandowski from Borussia Dortmund, while Chelsea would have noted the expressions of unhappiness from PSG’s Edinson Cavani.
The Uruguayan said earlier in the week that Chelsea and Manchester United had been interested in him in January and he would have to see where his future lay in the summer. Cavani struggled when he started off the flank against Chelsea, but he looked sharper when switched to his favoured central position after Zlatan Ibrahimovic went off injured. Cavani’s current €14m salary, after tax, would be an obstacle.
Mourinho wants another central defender, in addition to Kurt Zouma, the 19-year-old who will arrive from St Etienne for €15.12 million and, with an eye on Financial Fair Play and balancing the books, David Luiz could be sold.
Mourinho also wants a new left-back. Southampton’s Luke Shaw is an option with no sign of progress in the contract talks with Ashley Cole, whose deal expires in June. Chelsea’s focus is on restoring stability after Palace and Paris. The longer-term prospect is one of upheaval.