Chelsea striker Fernando Torres liberated by Eden Hazard as European champions reap benefits in victory
The season might be only one week old, but the transformation both in the form and confidence of Fernando Torres is already emerging as one of the most fascinating narratives.
A variety of explanations have been advanced for this change, mostly involving either the arrival at Stamford Bridge of Eden Hazard or the departure of Didier Drogba.
Equally convincing, however, is the theory that Torres’ resurgence is simply another triumph of man-management for Roberto di Matteo. After all, Frank Lampard, John-Obi Mikel, Ashley Cole, Petr Cech and Salomon Kalou are others who have returned to a quality and consistency of performance that was simply not evident under Andre Villas-Boas.
The man-management argument becomes even more compelling upon consideration of how Di Matteo chose to spend the jubilant plane journey from Munich back to Gatwick Airport just 12 hours after Chelsea had been crowned champions of Europe. With the celebrations unfolding all around him, Di Matteo sought out Torres for a heart-to-heart. At the time, Di Matteo was not ever sure he would remain as manager and Torres, in a rare interview, had just placed his own future in doubt by unburdening himself of all the hurt he felt following 18 dreadful months at the club.
“I told Fernando I thought he was part of the future of this club,” said Di Matteo. “I like to communicate with the players and keep those communication lines open. Players thrive on confidence.
“Understandably, there’s frustration when you don’t start such a big game but ultimately we had a big success and everybody was involved in that. I was always very happy with Fernando. Towards the back end of last season he was fantastic. Maybe not scoring but being a provider.”