by Jack Heaney

If our average lifespan is 76 years and God knows how many pints of ale, then 4 years is a paltry coffer of time in comparison to the far more vast reaches of human living capacity. Yet convert those 4 years into the career of a footballer, and that chunk of time is fattened; they can be everything or nothing. Back in 2008, Fernando Torres was 24; a player many would coo and melt over and implore us to trust in improvement and world domination. And why wouldn’t we believe he could improve?

On the back of a truly wondrous debut campaign with Liverpool, the Spaniard again had his say – this time internationally. Indeed, he may have only bagged two goals – and one of them the winner in the final – but the allure surrounding him was devastating. Torres was a livewire; a match-snatcher. He could cripple your impregnable defence or, if already impregnated by Spain’s wonderful array of talent, he would give it another good few thrusts, so to speak. He embodied the profound artifice of this incomprehensibly gifted generation of Spanish craftsmen. The danger surrounding him was constant. But with a downcast eyebrow, in 2012 the only constant emotion is one of frustration.

He hasn’t sailed smoothly since before Spain’s last International competition, the 2010 World Cup. He hasn’t consistently pummelled defences like he used to and the infamous grin he used to spread across his face after scoring was, at some point, replaced by a perpetual scowl. Fernando Torres plays in bits and drabs. Consistency, especially in the modern game, is everything. Yet it appears as foreign to him as a night out in London. The Spaniard gathered form towards the end of the campaign, yet most of us know the ending to the latest clip in his career. A loss of confidence and a scowl.

To many of us he has become predictable. Sadly, the only previously predictable part of Fernando Torres was that 9 times out of 10 – or statistically in his Liverpool career  81 times out of 142 appearances – he would score.

And so, the Fernando Torres of today is frustrating to watch because of our memories of the Fernando Torres of yesteryear. Perhaps even more frustrating is the vapid and empty discussion surrounding him. I’m becoming a tad annoyed at our constant mutterings at how ‘hey, you never know, the lights may dim and the Torres circa World Cup might just make a return’.

I’m sorry, but Torres will in all honesty probably not return to his former glories. He just won’t. The brilliant striker Torres once was simply will not return. He has made us feel this way before; allowing our hopes to collectively soar before his very own soaring form shudders to a halt. We have been tricked and tantalised by his recent career so many times that we should all know how this film ends. Not with a happy ending, but a let-down. Torres was once the lobster of football, now he is the watery pea soup that looks like p*ss. No amount of doe-eyed, maudlin references to a spirited Roy of the Rovers-esque comeback will change what has become a fact of modern football. Somewhere along the path, Fernando Torres lost it. And the will for him to find it again – whatever ‘it’ is – only serves to emphasise the striking loss of form he has endured.

Sadly, even if Torres was to regain some kind of consistency it would follow the tedious, rotten paradigm we have become accustomed to. His consistency would A) drop as so many times before or B) probably pale in comparison to his debut Liverpool season. Heady days shall not return. As I said, sorry. Like a failed relationship, we must move on from the tousle-haired Spaniard.

The sad thing is I’ll probably be labelled ‘cynical’ or, as assorted 14 year old internet oiks would have me branded, a ‘hater’. Well, actually I’m an optimist. I don’t want to keep looking over my shoulder to what Torres is doing…the guy isn’t coming back. As a fan it seems counter-productive to obsess over his impending return. It appears obsolete and monotonous and as uninteresting as an hour of Church on Sunday. Torres has been left behind, so why not discuss Lewandowski, for example? He is a predatory and finely talented young player. But still we use up valuable thinking time with Torres.

Do I want a proven great to return to our game as fit as a fiddle and in form? Of course! But false hope is a painful, blurry demon. And the Torres-loving part of me won’t live in false hope. Will Torres ever show glimpses, perhaps even a run of games, of what he once was? Yes. Will he ever consistently return to what once was? Doubtful. I hope I’m proven wrong; for football’s sake as well as Fernando’s. But there’s a part in all of us that knows the Torres who turned water into wine has disappeared.

So please, let’s move on. Let’s stop sighing in desperation as his former work fails to come to fruition. Let’s stop slurping for the dregs of what he once was; let’s stop, as noted above, wondering when Torres will turn water into wine again. For it will only leave a bitter, flat, bottom-of-the-shelf flavour in our mouths.