Monday, December 21, 2009

Fernando Torres To Put Country Ahead of Club and Elect for Surgery

Just when you thought Liverpool's current woes could not get any worse.

If reports in Spain are to be believed the Spanish FA are pressuring Fernando Torres to undergo surgery on his hernia as soon as possible so that the striker will be fit heading into the World Cup come June.

With Liverpool's season evaporating into a cloud of empty dreams, the liklyhood of Torres electing to move the surgery forward is becoming a very real possibility.

The striker is about to be put between a rock and a very hard place, and it now looks like he will have to choose between club and country. What is more important? Your club who are struggling on all fronts, and who have no realistic chance of taking some silverware home this season? Or your country, current European Champions and favourites to win the World Cup.

If it comes right down to such a decision, one would not like to be in Torres' shoes.

The popular striker has scored 61 goals in 100 Premiership games, a quite incredible feat. His love for the area and for the Liverpool faithful is well known, and it would surely be the last nail in their season's coffin if Torres was to opt for surgery.

Spain's point of view is obvious and easy to see. Liverpool are out of the Champions League, have no chance of winning the Premiership, will discount the Europa Cup as too many extra games for nothing, which leaves their only real chance of a trophy being the FA Cup, and that too may be an unwanted distraction for Rafael Benitez as he tries to orchestrate a fourth place finish.

For Spain, Liverpool's money problems are of no importance so they would want Torres to undergo the operation as soon as possible. The general time frame for recovery after such an operation is six to ten weeks. Whichever way you do the math, ten weeks without Torres in a struggling team would end any hope that Liverpool have of finishing fourth.

Losing Torres would also be likely to have massive ramifications for Rafael Benitez's future as Liverpool manager.

To keep his job at Anfield, Rafa must attain a fourth place finish at the very least. Something he promised early last week. Since then Liverpool have been beaten by the Premiership's bottom club and the pressure on the manager has ratcheted up a couple of notches. Without Torres, finishing fourth looks a distant proposition.

Liverpool and Benitez are in dire need of backup for Torres. Currently only 20 year old David Ngog offers anything in the way of cover for the Spaniard. But he is highly inexperienced, and it is unlikely that Liverpool would not move for another striker in January.

Ruud van Nistelrooy is the name on everyones lips, the Real Madrid forward is out of favour at the Bernabeau, and is believed to be available on a free transfer as Los Blancos look to cut their huge wagebill.

The Dutchman currently commands somewhere in the region of £150,000 per week at Madrid, and Liverpool would have some work to do to tempt him to Anfield as they would not be able to meet these kind of demands.

Speaking in Zurich as the FIFA awards party, Fernando Torres echoed these views. "Obviously we need
players. If we can bring quality players it should be really positive for us, but I think the situation is really difficult because I think we don't have money to bring in the best players."

Torres added: "It's a difficult situation but every top team in the world goes sometimes through a bad situation like Liverpool now."

"Like every top team in the world, Liverpool will get over the situation. I have confidence in myself and my team. I know we are good enough. We were playing really well last season with the same team. We have to just recover the mentality and the confidence in ourselves and everything will be different."

Liverpool would have the option of paying van Nistelrooy £100,000 with Madrid picking up the rest, it would still represent a massive saving for Los Galacticos.

Ironically, Liverpool would actually be in a better position to tempt the former United satr to Anfield if Torres was out injured, as the Dutchman would be guaranteed first team football in a year that is also important to him because the World Cup in South Africa represents the last chance he will have to play on such a big stage.

Liverpool will face stiff competition for the signature of van Nistelrooy. Even at 33, van Nistelrooy is one of the most feared strikers in Europe, and while his pace may have deserted him, his clinical finishing in the box is as dangerous as ever.

Arsenal and Spurs are the closest rivals to Liverpool for van Nistelrooy, and would double their efforts to land the Dutchman if it meant their nearest rival for the Champions League were left with only one striker, should Torres get surgery as expected.

One big question that would also need to be answered if Torres gets operation would be if Steven Gerrard was to undergo a similar situation and possibly demand a rest before the World Cup.

The midfielder has been a shadow of his former self this season as the strains of playing through one too many injuries add to the mental strain of recent court cases.

Gerrard has given his all for the club during his 11 years as a pro. It is worth noting that Gerrard joined Liverpool in 1987 as a youth and has always been a one club man. It would not be beyond the realms of possibility that the club captain would ask his club to put his welfare ahead of their own for once and allow him time to rest before the World Cup, especially if they have no chance of winning anything.

Benitez himself has openly admitted that Gerrard's groin problems will have long term ramifications for the player, long after he finishes playing. The powerful midfielder has had to take pain killing injections throughout this dismal season, and one can see the effect it is having on the player.

As the team continue to struggle his confidence is diminishing and you can see him thinking "Why am I putting myself through this, for this?"

If Torres opts out, it might not be long before Gerrard comes asking the same, that would be the Doomsday scenario for Liverpool, and while it is some way off happening, it is haunts the club like a dark cloud on the horizon.

One other cloud is the constant talk that Manchester City will bid for the Spanish star. They would gladly sign the player and allow him time to rest for the World Cup, as it would destroy any hope Liverpool have of finishing fourth.

Liverpool are currently in debt for £290 million, and have until the end of June to repay the amount in full. A bid of £80m for Torres was rejected last Summer, but the situation has worsened since then and an improved offer would be listened to. Chelsea are also believed to be readying a bid of £40 million for Gerrard, who will turn 30 in May.

If Liverpool were to get £140 million for two players, it would give Benitez the financial muscle to strengthrn the squad significantly, although his transfer record over the past five years has been questionable at best.

Liverpool's problems do not end with the injury worries of their two best players. Javier Mascherano damaged knee ligaments in his cowards over-the-top challenge against Portsmouth on Saturday, he received a red card and four match ban for his troubles. That ban has been compounded by the injury he suffered and the Argentinian will now miss Liverpool's next five matches, although he is banned for four.

The next month will decide many fate's at Liverpool. Torres' on whether to have the operation or not, Gerrard on whether to rest or not, Mascherano on whether to sign a new contract, or not, and most importantly Rafael Benitez's future as manager.

For what it is worth, Fernando Torres believes that the club should stick with their beleagured manager. "I think sacking the manager is not a solution," Torres said. "The manager is not playing so we have to be positive with him, try to work with him. We are the main reason, the players are the people that have to find a solution to the situation. The manager is not playing, so we have to play much better."

A nice sentiment from the player, but it does not take away from the fact that Benitez has built the current squad, and that all the players at his disposal are his signings, so the manager must bear his fair share of the criticism.

With every passing day the pressure at Liverpool cranks up. Benitez was a shell-shocked figure after last weeks abysmal defeat to Portsmouth, so much so that the Reds manager looked as if he was suffering from combat trauma.

Some more bad results and he might be hit with the body blow that his two best players need time to rest for the biggest tournament in their lives, only problem is, this battle is the biggest one in Rafa's life. What answer do you think he will give the duo if they come looking for rest?

And just as important, what would their answer to him be?