Tue, Aug 07, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Liverpool hoping Torres will shine


Fernando Torres is being touted as the missing piece in Liverpool's jigsaw but fans are reserving judgement on whether `El Nino' can warm up Anfield.

Although the club record £21 million (US$43 million) capture of Torres has created a wave of excitement at the club ahead of Rafa Benitez's fourth season in charge, the phrase "the final piece of the jigsaw" has become synonymous with Liverpool after 17 title-free years.

There is no doubting the talents of the fresh-faced Torres.

David Beckham faced him when at Real Madrid and labelled him as one of the best strikers in Spain.

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."

But this is the Premiership where big-name strikers have failed in the past and where Torres is untested.

Andrei Shevchenko has hardly set Stamford Bridge on fire since arriving at Chelsea while Benitez gambled and lost with three-times Champions League winner Fernando Morientes.

Benitez will hope his 18th import from La Liga will turn out to be considerably more successful, yet despite his outstanding talent it is still asking an awful lot of Torres to provide the sort of golden goal touch Liverpool have lacked since the heady days of Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush.

The 23-year-old Spain striker has been drafted in to provide the goals that have been lacking under Benitez's leadership.

While Manchester United have clocked up an impressive 213 Premiership goals since Benitez moved to England in June 2004, Liverpool have managed just 166.

Craig Bellamy was shipped out after one season because he was not up to the job and, while Dirk Kuyt may have established himself with fans, he is hardly ruthless.

Peter Crouch remains Liverpool's most reliable striker, but Benitez would not trust him with a starting place in the Champions League final.

Torres will be under pressure to deliver -- but this deal has as much riding on it for Benitez as it has for Liverpool.

The arrival of Torres is as much a defining test of Benitez's title credentials as it is of the young Spanish striker's glowing reputation.

There can be no more excuses if they fail to threaten Manchester United and Chelsea this season after Liverpool's US co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett's summer backing for Benitez in the transfer market.

Torres is A-list and expensive; a symbol of the sort of player Benitez claims has been out of his reach before.

Now he has got him, bought and paid for in a record-breaking manner, he can no longer use finance as his shield against expectations.

Torres must come up with the goals his price tag demands.

If it comes off, he could actually be the last piece of the jigsaw.

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