3 Dec 2007

Fernando Torres' disappointing and misguided public threat

Last week I criticized Steven Gerrard for failing to provide public support for Rafa. Since then, a host of players have backed the Spaniard, including Peter Crouch and John Arne Riise. There is a fine line though between moderate public support and holding the club to ransom, and Fernando Torres has crossed that line.

Torres’ latest comments are quite simply unacceptable and come at a time when the Benitez/Hicks storm seemed to be passing:

"Benitez has created a team of people who are indebted to him. It's certain if he goes many players will think about their futures”.

That may be the case, but Torres should not be saying it in public under any circumstances. Furthermore, his comments come at the worst possible time: the Benitez/Hicks storm seemed to be passing; the team had responded in the best possible way; the club was refocusing and everything was settling down.

Torres’ divisive comments will just whip up the media frenzy again, and refocus media attention on something that has brought shame on the club in recent weeks.

Simple support in the press along the lines of ‘we support the Manager and will do our best’ is fine, as Peter Crouch illustrated with his recent comments:

“It’s not for me to say who is right or wrong in this situation. What goes on in the boardroom is not our concern. We will keep trying to get results that will keep the manager safe”.

Making a statement that is tantamount to holding the club to ransom is a mistake, and Torres is playing a dangerous game. After all, who pays his wages? It is not Rafael Benitez, that's for sure.

No player or manager is bigger than the club, I don’t care who it is. Torres is a superb player and he has been a revelation for Liverpool. However, this does not give him the right to try and exert pressure on the club’s owners through the media in the form of an ‘if he goes we go’ ultimatum.

I’m sure Torres had the best of intentions, but such behaviour is supremely unprofessional. Additionally, after the Hicks vs Rafa fiasco, it puts the club in a bad light once again and provides the media with an opportunity to spin negative stories about a divide between the club and its players. Torres’ other comments about Benitez were bordering on the sycophantic:

"Benitez is not just another manager. He created a team and put his faith in players that owe him a lot. He’s more than a Manager. He’s one of the greats in their history and people feel that way about him and they show it"

Actually, Benitez *is* just another Manager. He is not god and it is his *job* to create a team and put his faith in the players. Perhaps Torres’ fawning worship of Benitez has clouded his judgement? Or maybe he is just na├»ve and really believes his comments will help?

Torres’s comments are even more ill-advised given the fact that Benitez brought the whole situation on himself. He displayed his unprofessionalism in that ill-fated press conference and forced Hicks’ hand.

If Rafa had just got on with his job and kept things behind closed doors, this whole sorry mess would never have happened. Rafa was clearly right about the Americans not knowing how the transfer market works, but he should have kept his grievances behind closed doors.

The thing that irritates me about Torres’ comments is this: He is basically saying that the players play for Benitez and not the club. This is not the way it should be. First and foremost, players should be playing for the glory of Liverpool FC, i.e. they should be honoured to play for a club with Liverpool's Glorious history, unique identity and individual philosophy.

In the cynical context of modern football, this may be an unrealistic ideal, but that doesn’t mean that fans should just accept it. If the privilege of playing for the best club in the world is not good enough for Fernando Torres, then let him leave.

Bill Shankly was always very strong on this point: If you don’t want to play for Liverpool, then we don’t want you. That’s the Liverpool way and that’s the way it should be. The club and its history should be the attraction, not solely the Manager. If Benitez is sacked, then Torres and the other alleged rebels should want to continue to play for the CLUB.

If players leave just because a Manager leaves, where is the allegiance to the club –or does that not matter anymore? I expect such behaviour from the mercenaries at Chelsea but not from Liverpool.

If Rafa is ultimately sacked and Torres and a host of top players leave then so be it. This will show categorically that they do not care about the club and I personally don’t want players at Liverpool who do not support the club first.

I have no doubt that a huge number of fans will be applauding Torres for his comments; this is just another depressing sign of how far the standards of fandom have fallen. Supporting Torres means that you support misguided player power over the best interests of the club.

My allegiance is to glory of Liverpool FC first. Players come and go, but the club and what it stands for last forever. Fernando Torres should remember that and stick to what he does best: scoring goals.


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