Fernando Torres: "That goal changed my life...and Spain"
In the second part of our interview with the Spanish striker, he reveals thoughts on the teams he played for, Hazard, Neymar, Griezmann, favourite managers...
In the first part of our interview with Fernando Torres we discussed what might have happened if he’d moved to Real Madrid instead of Liverpool and whether he sees a future in management. Here in the second part the Atlético Madrid legend talks about his time with the Spanish national side and a whole lot more…
The reaction from the football world [to the announcement of your retirement] has been incredible. It’s great to feel loved isn’t it.
This two-month process is really good for me and for Sagan Tosu, because the whole world will be watching what will be my final games, particularly the die-hard fans. The reaction from the entire world of football shows me I need to be proud, and that I’ve had a lot of luck in my career to meet people who have always advised me to have the image I have today; to have made sure I made less mistakes than I would have done if I hadn’t had them. I feel fortunate.
A feeling from your first spell at Atleti?
A dream come true; a goal realised.
It was an amazing time. When I see players who have played their whole lives at one club, I’ve felt that I would have liked not to have left Atleti, who knows what might have happened, but that would mean missing out on Liverpool and [being at that club] is a feeling I don’t want to miss out on or forget.
Chelsea gave me what I always longed for: titles.
Your time at Milan?
It’s an incredible club, who were interested in me when I was a lad. Maybe we didn’t come together at the best time. It was a short spell.
The second spell at Atleti?
The best of all.
An incredible experience which gave me what I needed in a lot of areas of my life what I needed at that moment in time.
"Playing for your country is what puts you, or not, on the map"
What has the Spanish side meant to you in your life?
The Spain side was the icing on the cake. Playing for your country is what puts you, or not, on the map, it’s the most important thing, because of the period we played in. All the players of that generation are who we are thanks to that era of the Spanish national side.
And the goal in Vienna?
It’s the goal that changed my career. What’s more, it was after my best footballing year which was at Liverpool. That group of players, we changed the history of Spanish football and it fell to me to have the luck of scoring the goal in the final. At the time you don’t realised you’ve scored the most important goal you’re going to score in your career. With time, you do realise. It didn’t just change my life, it changed the dynamic of the Spanish team, it takes you to another level as a player, they value you differently. It’s a key moment, a before and after moment.
What other goals would you pick from your career?
The one in Vienna, of course. My first goal when I came back to Atleti for my second spell, because of the opponents, to score again wearing that shirt, what it meant at the time. I always talk about the goal in the other final of the European Championships in 2012, which seems like it never happened. The goal in Vienna is so important that it seems like in the final in 2012 I never scored, both that goal and the pass to Juan Mata, they are moments I value in my career. And of course the final goal in an Atleti shirt, because there’ll never be any more.
Which player would you have liked to play with?
I would have liked to have played with Kiko. I was close, but it wasn’t to be. It was a thing a dreamt about when I was little. You go to see your team at the Calderón, you’re in the stands and you see your favourite player and you dream of playing with him, like all children dream about things which are impossible because you don’t think you could play at the same time. But then these things can happen and I was really close. I would have liked to share a pitch with Kiko.
Favourite manager: "After Luis, Rafa Benítez and ‘El Cholo’, but without any specific order."
Choose your top coaches.
When you’ve had so many great coaches you always choose things from each one. I always leave out people who I should include. Luis Aragonés is there, without a doubt, as a coach, as a manager and as a leader he’ll always be right at the top. After Luis, Rafa Benítez and ‘El Cholo’ [Simeone], but without any specific order. If I were a coach, I’d have a lot of these three coaches. I’ve had Mourinho, Ancelotti, Villas-Boas, Di Matteo, great coaches I’ve learnt a lot from, but I’d go more towards Benítez, because of how methodical he is, how he wants to control every part of the match. There are coaches of teams and coaches of players and Benítez gets great individual performances within the team. And that’s an innate talent. Rafa took me to a level I didn’t think I’d reach. El Cholo – you’ve seen what he’s doing with Atleti and he’s been capable of changing history to a certain extent and that’s based on work.
Your relationship with Cholo went through some difficult times in what you say is your best spell of your career. What happened then? Was Simeone fair to Torres?
I talked to him and what I had to say to him, I said to him. And he too told me what he had to say to me. They’re two points of view from two very different situations. When you’ve been someone’s team-mate you’ve done stuff that means that when the next day they are your boss it’s hard to deal with the relationship, to know where the limits are. It was three and a half spectacular years for what I experienced in general.
Would you be Cholo’s assistant?
I don’t think I’d be a good assistant. I’ve learnt a lot of things: how to separate my feelings, how to focus in what he thought was the best for today, not tomorrow or yesterday. I’ve had complete respect for every decision he’s taken and my way of protesting is what Luis Aragonés taught me, when he said: “You, Niño, if you don’t play, get angry with yourself and not with the coach”. And the next day go and train harder. When I didn’t play I felt I had to play more and others less. In Simeone’s head I won’t have played any more or less than I deserve. The key to the relationship has been mutual respect and we’ve known how to deal with a relationship which was complicated for both me and for him.
Are you ready, mentally prepared to stop the day-to-day of football, the routine of training?
Yes, completely. For me one era ends and another starts. It doesn’t have to be worse than the previous one, my life doesn’t end. I’m finishing a career of which I’m very proud and we’ll see what the future holds, but no doubt it’ll be good.
"As a kid we got laughed at because the team was pretty average, now we’ve won back the respect of the world of football."
It feels like the Atleti fans are more hurt by Rodri’s departure than that of Griezmann. What do you think?
There’ll be all sorts of feelings. What I’ve learnt over the years, as a fan, as a player, on my return, is that what Atleti people most appreciate, above all, is respect, because before we weren’t respected. As a kid we got laughed at because the team was pretty average, now we’ve won back the respect of the world of football. Atleti people appreciate these details, not just what’s done on the pitch, it’s what’s done on it and off it, it’s the day-to-day work, it’s every gesture, every training session, after every training session and people value the whole package. There’s no emotional vacuum with both of them leaving.
And Marcos Llorente wants to come to Atleti, that’s positive?
Atleti is bigger right now than thinking about which team players come in from. What’s more important is where they are leaving to go. And the time will come when players see Atleti as their final destination, the place where they want to win, stay, make history, win and be players who are remembered for ever. It’s a step that’ll happen very soon. Where they come from doesn’t matter, what it’s important is that they come committed to Atleti, and once they are at the club, the people in the club are able to communicate to them what it means and the day they decide to leave they do it with respect for what the club has given them, and then nobody will rebuke them for anything.
"Hazard is a spectacular footballer who needs the boost from a club like Real Madrid to reach the level he can reach"
What do you think of Madrid with Eden Hazard? Will Zidane know how to create a team?
Of course. When you’ve got those resources it’s easier. They’ve got the brand where every player in the world wants to player there and when they call the players see it as a club where you can make history and that moment is yet to come for Atleti. Hazard is a spectacular footballer who needs the boost from a club like Real Madrid to reach the level he can reach, what he’s done at Chelsea in a fleeting manner, also because it’s not a club like Madrid. It remains to be seen if he’s able to push himself to want to be better. His ability and the conditions are perfect. Sometimes it seemed he struggled to want to be better when I saw him training, it was clear he could be at the level of the best. Now he’s got the stage on which to do it. It’ll depend more on his mentality than his football.
Can you see Neymar going back to Barça?
They are summer rumours. I don’t know what’ll be true or not, but Barça are in a situation like Madrid: a big club that’s attractive to all the players in the world and what’s normal is for everybody to want to go there, and what the bosses have to do is create a team, not a group of names.
What did you feel when you heard Casillas had had a heart attack?
Those are moments when the world stops and you see how fragile life is and we’re worried about what we’re going to do in a year’s time and a year is an eternity. You have to live today as if it were your last and enjoy what you have and not think that tomorrow in five years’ time we’ll have more. Let’s live for today.
And the death of José Antonio Reyes…
More reason to think like that. I’m going to see my family, but I never make it, that’s what happened to Reyes. It’s today. When that tragedy happened, and the shock with Iker, I’d already taken the decision, but these things showed me it’s what I have to do.
Your charity work is very important, above all your tireless support for Fundela.
That’s never seemed fair to me - I see it the other way around. Fundela have supported me and above all, Carlos has been a tremendous emotional support to me at the times I needed it. All the support I can give is not much compared to what they’ve done for me. I’ve done what I’ve done in football thanks to the people who surround me. Nobody can do great things alone. Without all the people who have had an influence on me I wouldn’t have achieved anything. I feel I’ve given something back to Spanish football and I feel that what I’ve been able to Fundela or Carlos is very little compared to what I’ve received.
Would you have liked to go to Ramos’ wedding?
I was a little far away. I followed it a bit with what’s been published, but I don’t know much.
Are you going to continue to be resident in Madrid?
For the moment, yes. At the end of the day it’s where I have my house. We want to keep the gyms growing, outside Spain too. But my project now is to have two months more of football and try to enjoy every training session because soon there won’t be any more and when I get back to Madrid, rest, disconnect, reset and see what my body wants.
And the last game you play will be against Iniesta and Villa – a beautiful coincidence.
When we took the decision that this was going to be the last season, we thought about doing it as best we could and there was a fixture on the calendar against Vissel Kobe and so I decided on that date. Japan gives me the opportunity to retire on the football pitch with two friends who have meant a lot to me. I partnered up front with David at the moment the history of the Spanish side changed, we’ve played so many games, we’ve scored so many goals and with Andrés our careers have been in parallel because we started together in the Spain set-up when we were 15-years-old, we won everything with full Spain team, we left our clubs the same year and we came to the same league and I’m going to be able to have two friends on the field so I can give them a hug the day I hang up my boots. It's the perfect finale.