Torres not 'exactly the same player', says Benitez
Chelsea v FulhamRafael Benitez has admitted Fernando Torres may never recapture the form that marked him out as one of the world’s best forwards while at Liverpool. However, Chelsea’s interim manager believes a fitness programme and training drills geared towards the Spanish striker’s needs can help improve the 28-year-old’s fortunes at Stamford Bridge.
Torres thrived under his compatriot during three seasons together on Merseyside but having suffered from knee problems towards the end of his time at Anfield, has struggled with Chelsea since his British record £50 million transfer in January 2011.
The striker’s bright start to this season has petered out, with only one goal since the first week in October. Benitez watched from afar as he toiled to score 19 goals in 87 appearances since moving to London, but has now worked with him first-hand for five days, with a plan to improve Torres physically and mentally.
“He’s not exactly the same player now because he was at maximum level at that time [at Liverpool],” said Benitez while preparing for tonight’s visit of Fulham. “But I think he can come back. How close? I don’t know. It depends on the rest of the team. I’m sure he can improve – but the team has to help him. The first thing is to give him some confidence and instructions as to how he can do things in a different way, and improve him a little bit physically.
“Each situation, each team, is different and the way you train, or the players you have, might change your approach.
“You maybe need something specific for each player. Fernando needs some exercises that we will try to introduce for him, but we will do the same for Oscar, the same for Ashley Cole and for [Frank] Lampard.
He said it was possible to work on little things with every player.
Villas-Boas had recruited Ivan Ortega, a sports therapist who spent two years working with Torres at Liverpool and who continues to attend to members of the Chelsea first-team squad. The coach Xavi Valero, who accompanied Benitez to Stamford Bridge last week, has also worked one-on-one with the striker in the past, with the need to restore Torres’s confidence clear, particularly given the lack of striking options at the club.
Daniel Sturridge, the only other recognised forward in the first-team squad, will again miss out against Fulham with a hamstring strain. Chelsea have yet to decide whether to recall Romelu Lukaku from his loan spell at West Bromwich Albion in January.
The focus now is to find a system of play that will suit Torres, retain the attacking trio of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata, and also implement solidity across the defence, with Benitez considering replacing Mikel John Obi with Oriol Romeu tonight.
Benitez has immersed himself eagerly in his new role, his first for almost two years since leaving Internazionale.
“I have spent some time with Roman and we have not been talking about recreating the ‘Barcelona’ style,” said Benitez. “He just wants to see his team playing well . . . We have different players. I am looking to find a balance in our style . . . he knows it’ll take some time to fix everything, but he knows we can do it.”