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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 July 2007, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
'El Nino' to warm up Anfield

By John May

New Liverpool striker Fernando Torres with boss Rafa Benitez
Torres (right) becomes Benitez's 18th signing from Spain

Fernando Torres and the Premier League are made for each other, according to former Atletico Madrid coach Radomir Antic.

Liverpool will just be hoping the 23-year-old who shoulders the burden of a reported 26.5m price tag and is known as El Nino, can finally bring about a sea-change to their title hopes.

Torres has been touted as the final missing piece in the Anfield jigsaw, the striker who can provide the sort of golden goal touch Liverpool have lacked since the heady days of Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush or Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen in more recent times.

His record of 75 goals in five seasons in the Spanish top flight suggest a natural goalscoring instinct and Spain's national coach Luis Aragones hinted at his range of skills by once saying: "Torres never scores the same goal twice"

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has not been slow to visit the Primera Liga, and Torres becomes the 18th import from Spain to pitch up at Anfield.

Reds' fans may point to the likes of Fernando Morientes among the misses, but Antic - who was Atletico coach while Torres was forging his way through the youth team - is sure Torres will be a hit.

He told BBC Sport: "Liverpool have done a very good job in getting him because Torres is such a good player.

606: DEBATE
CM

"I'm surprised Atletico have sold their captain. Since he started to play for them he's been a regular player and important for the team."

Born in the Madrid neighbourhood of Fuenlabrada, Torres first caught the eye of The Mattresses when he scored 55 goals in a season for an under-10 team.

In the Madrid social order, Atletico have always been the horny-handed sons of soil compared to the aristocrats of Real.

But after making his first-team debut in May 2001 and guiding Atletico back to the top flight the follwing season, Torres has been a prince among strikers.

If he was initially a well-kept secret outside of the spotlight that surrounds Real in Madrid, the world at large sat up and took notice when he scored a stunning volley to round off Spain's 4-0 win over Ukraine in last summer's World Cup.

The fresh-faced Torres looks like easy pickings for bully-boy defenders but Antic is also sure he will answer the physical demands set by what is reputed to be the world's most physically demanding league.

Atletico Madrid fans show their displeasure at Fernando Torres' sale
Atletico fans were not happy at Torres' departure

"England is a good place for his qualities. He has a strong personality, but he's also quick and strong physically," he said.

Antic also hinted that Torres' qualities could be a sign of Benitez changing Liverpool's style.

He said: "He's also a very skilful player, especially in one-on-one situations, which will be something different for Liverpool up front.

"They have not had a striker who can take the ball and beat opponents.

"In the last few years at Atletico, he was a striker without any support from midfield. Atletico played that way because his movement meant he could run on to forward passes."

But if the move holds out rich promise for Liverpool, Antic also feels it does the same for Torres.

He's one of the best players I have come up against in Spain

Former Real Madrid midfielder David Beckham

The former Atletico boss said: "He needs a new challenge to improve his game, and I think Torres has done a good thing to come to England."

The former Atletico coach is not the only one to sing Torres' praises.

Abraham Garcia, who coached his junior team, said: "He'll probably become world famous.

"Directness, pace, power, excellent in the air and the mindset of a born winner make Fernando an extraordinary player."

Of course, such praise has to be placed in the context. Torres is undoubtedly erratic, a player capable of missing goals almost as spectacularly as he scores them.

And as impressive as his goalscoring record is, it must be remembered he was Atletico's penalty taker during the past few years - which has put a positive sheen on his statistics.

Plus, the pundits could be wrong. Morientes was expected to be a huge star in the Premier League but it did not happen. And it was only 12 months ago that many were salivating over the prospect of Andriy Shevchenko in English football.

Nevertheless, he has the potential to be a star as a certain player from Madrid - who knows a thing or two about stardom - says.

During his time at Real, former England skipper David Beckham said of Torres: "He's one of the best players I have come up against in Spain and one of the best forwards in Europe."



SEE ALSO
Comment: Anfield's missing link?
03 Jul 07 |  Football
Torres gives Arsenal strong hint
12 Nov 05 |  Arsenal


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