Throughout his long career in Europe, Fernando Torres has been able to accomplish some mind-numbing feats as a star in the Premier League, La Liga and for the Spanish National Team.
He was a Ballon d’Or finalist in 2008, won a Golden Shoe at the Federations Cup in 2013 and was a Premier League Player of the Month twice. He’s played for a World Cup winner, multiple European champions and been a Champions League winner.
However, Torres is now 34 and playing time in La Liga for Atletico Madrid has become harder and harder to come by. So he’s apparently showing interest in picking up and leaving Spain for a new challenge. And that challenge may come in the MLS, where the Chicago Fire appear to be the likely benefactors.
The Fire own his discovery rights, and they’ve got a nice little pile of allocation cash set aside to pursue him with after selling David Accam to the Philadelphia Union this winter. They also have a natural in with Torres.
Fire coach Veljko Paunovic played alongside Torres at Atletico Madrid. While Paunovic didn’t want to spend too much time talking about a player who isn’t yet on his roster, he did address the possibility of going after Torres recently by comparing him to Bastian Schweinsteiger.
“We don’t talk about [players] who are not part of our squad, respecting that they are at other clubs,” Paunovic said. “But for sure we are able to bring in great players.
“We showed that when we signed Bastian. He is a player who understands his role on and off the pitch. A relaxed guy, who helps his teammates a lot, shares his experience. The truth is it’s a pleasure to have him.”
And then he reminisced on playing with Torres.
“We shared many memories together,” he said. “Above all I remember his human qualities and how he has grown as a player. He is a complete superstar.”
However, pursuing Torres could still be a challenge. Despite the fact that he’s been resigned to mostly reserve action with one of the world’s largest clubs, he’s shown that he’s still a scoring threat and deep-pocketed clubs in China and the Middle East are also showing interest.
Torres is reportedly seeking $4 million a year, and in an MLS that is trending towards signing younger designated players, that’s a problematic ask. Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl ballparks his MLS value somewhere between $1.3-$1.5 million a year.
However, the Fire are uniquely positioned because they’re looking to capitalize on their time with Schweinsteiger. If they feel like Torres can pair with Nemanja Nikolic and give them the scoring threat needed to jump back towards the top of the table, they might be inclined to overpay for the aging striker and see if he has enough left in the tank to help power them to a championship.
How often do you get a chance to add a player like Torres? A player with 254 goals against some of the top competition in the world and 38 national team goals for arguably the most talented side in Europe has a lot to offer. Like Paunovic said, he’s a true star, and these opportunities don’t present themselves frequently in the MLS.
You certainly don’t want to over-leverage yourself and jeopardize the future simply for a chance at a championship now. However, they already put themselves in a situation where they have to go “all-in” now by bringing Schweinsteiger on in the first place.
The Fire are playing better soccer in the last month and have vaulted themselves back into playoff contention. However, their lack of attacking power is still clear, and Torres should help solve that problem.
Will that alone be enough to make them genuine contenders? And how much exactly is that worth in the event they find themselves in a bidding war with a Chinese club?
Those are the questions the Fire and Paunovic have to ask themselves. But Paunovic’s comments and the fact that Torres-to-the-Fire rumors have been out there for weeks certainly seem to indicate that there’s interest.
And signing Fernando Torres definitely would make for some exciting times in Bridgeview.