It’s been a long old season for Fernando Torres. The man who scored 65 league goals in 103 appearances for Liverpool before making the switch to Stamford Bridge has at times looked a shadow of his former self in a blue shirt.
Mocked by opposition fans and parodied in the media, one could have forgiven him just a few weeks ago for wishing this season was over, and to look ahead to start afresh next season.
Just 100 minutes later, and Torres has fired in four goals to send his side up the Premier League table and into the Champions League final.
Torres was sloppy for much of his ten minute cameo at the Bernabeu. Coming on for Drogba, he persistently failed to do the main task that was asked of him – keep a hold of the ball.
But the first sign that his luck might finally be turning was when he lost the ball for a final time, an act that led, domino-like, to the ball being booted upfield to find Torres completely alone, one-on-one with Valdes. He sprinted the 50 yards to goal, and the rest was history.
On Sunday, against a dishevelled QPR, Torres was no longer wasteful in possession, no longer over-doing it, no longer hesitant in front of goal. His hat-trick was his best performance yet for Chelsea, and a timely reminder of the alternative option he can offer Di Matteo in attack.
While he’s not able to offer the same muscular and powerful presence of Drogba, he showed against QPR that his direct and diagonal off-the-ball running does give Chelsea the chance to get behind defences with the ball on the deck, in contrast to the back-to-goal, direct style often associated with having Drogba as a targetman.
With Di Matteo always likely to start Torres in the remaining league games and keep Drogba fresh for their two cup finals, the Spaniard is not only playing to claim a place in the Spanish squad for the Euros, but a further performance midweek against Newcastle like the one he produced against QPR could yet see him dislodge his Ivorian colleague against former club Liverpool (2/1 favs) in the FA Cup final on Saturday.