Liverpool better off without Torres
Dear John and Tom,
I just wanted to congratulate you on your first major piece of Liverpool business, not counting your mercy -- or is that Mersey? -- killing of Roy Hodgson. I'm sure it will be a great success.
Or the final nail in the Liverpool coffin.
I should probably point out that while I'm neither a fan of your club nor one of those King Kenny freaks who genuflect daily to the Kop's storied past, I still feel compelled to write you for a couple of reasons.
First, I know that the January transfer market can be a bit jarring when you're used to the relative civility of the Hot Stove League. Remember when your other team traded Nomar Garciaparra in 2004 and Red Sox Nation howled at the moon? As gut-wrenching as that was, I suspect this was a much more daunting challenge since you aren't yet conversant with the psychotic attachment fans have to their favorite soccer players. (As opposed to, say, not caring a whit about their previous manager, who they were all too willing to sacrifice at the altar of King Kenny.) And yet with no experience in this high-wire game, you took to it like Manny Ramirez to estrogen.
More impressively, you didn't allow emotion to cloud your vision, unlike my Liverpool friends who spent the weekend curled into the fetal position, whimpering like John Boehner in their No. 9 jerseys at the prospect of having a certain Spanish center forward ripped from their heaving bosoms.
"Man up," I told them. "You'll be better off." And although I always enjoy a tasty helping of Liverpudlian misery, for once I meant what I said. It's an impressive display of brinkmanship that lets Fernando Torres (and his one good hamstring) walk into the sordid arms of those Stamford Bridge philistines, but not before hornswoggling them out of a massive transfer fee believed to be about $72 million plus add-ons.
Sure, you'll lose some hairband sales and suffer the slings and arrows of badly written Anfield blog posts, but in the long run, getting rid of Torres is every bit as shrewd a move as when you let Nomar leave. And lest anybody forget, you gave Boston its first World Series in 86 years barely 10 weeks later. Meanwhile, you've made all the right noises about how you're going to spend Chelsea's filthy lucre. Buy, buy, buy.
First, you nabbed Luis Suarez for $36 million, but that was just a prelude to your audacious $55 million gamble on Andy Carroll. I must admit I was surprised when I heard what you paid -- after all, the Newcastle battering ram has scored 11 league goals, just four more than Manchester United's Chicarito, who cost Manchester United about $13 million -- but there's no denying he has all the attributes to light up the Kop. Carroll is strong, he's English, he's a beast in the air. In short, he's your classic, old-school target man who will provide the lithe and quicksilver Suarez with a smorgasbord of delicious chances to sink his teeth into. My only concern is that so far King Kenny has been all about playing the ball on the ground with lots of movement and slick passing, and at Newcastle Carroll feasted off long balls hoofed into the box that he'd win by outjumping and outmuscling defenders.
Still, over time I'm sanguine that both Suarez and Carroll will fit into Dalglish's reconstruction project, the one that should restore your club's pedigree as a top team, Torres wanted no part of Liverpool 2.0, even after you showed your bold intent with the capture of Suarez. On paper, Suarez would finally have given El Nino a strike partner worthy of his silky skills, another forward dangerous enough in his own right to keep defenses honest. The fact Nando didn't withdraw his transfer request at the instant of Suarez's arrival leads me to believe that, despite his cri de coeur about needing more quality players, Torres was as concerned with Liverpool's commitment to upgrading the squad as Wayne Rooney was with Man United's.
The difference, of course, is that Sir Alex was able to persuade Rooney to execute a Fergie-Time U-Turn once his agent had extorted the kind of obscene wages Torres surely covets. Why else would he go to Chelsea if his favorite color weren't green rather than red?
Trust me, John and Tom, you'll get the last laugh.
After all, what awaits the Spaniard at the Bridge that wouldn't have evolved over the next few months at Anfield? Didier Drogba? The Torres/Drogba partnership has all the staying power of a Kardashian kredit kard. The Ivorian hit man isn't exactly known for making his strike partner better, as Nicolas Anelka can attest, and with Torres and Drogba both being pure center forwards, the odds of either of them roaming the flanks and pumping in crosses for the other is about the same as the odds of Kevin Youkilis attending Fashion Week.
Anelka? Daniel Sturridge? Not to suggest that they aren't held in high regard around Stamford Bridge, but didn't Chelsea all but beg you to take them off their hands as makeweights -- or deadweights -- in the deal?
For more from David Hirshey, check out his columns on all things soccer.
• The All-EPL Team, 2011-12
• Saying goodbye to Chinaglia
• Time to dethrone King Kenny Dalglish?
• In praise of Fulham
• The comeback artists
• Call it a comeback
• Death by Manchester
• The battle for third
• Spurs' title credentials
• EPL's best starting XI
• City handed first EPL loss
• Chelsea pushed to brink
• Fragile egos crossing
• City and United
• Is Newcastle for real?
• The bad-behavior derby
Like many others, I've always been a Michael Essien fan, but after watching Everton's 12-year-old Jack Rodwell repeatedly strip the ball from the Ghanaian powerhouse this past weekend, I think it's safe to say he's pushed the down button on his majestic career. Frank Lampard can still hit a nice long pass, but that's rapidly becoming his only skill, as every week he auditions for the part of David Beckham's replacement in L.A.
John Terry doesn't exactly inspire fear these days with his mollusk level of speed. The cupboard is bare at Chelsea, and so Mother Abramovich has gone on an expensive shopping expedition, and good for you for jacking up the price.
To be fair -- and I am famed for my equanimity -- London does beat Liverpool in the cosmopolitan department, but it's not as though there will be greater marketing opportunities for a player who was regarded as being every bit the God as Robbie Fowler by the Anfield faithful. Londoners are a far more jaded lot than the Northern folks, and Torres will never be more worshipped than he was while he sported the red of LFC. He's traded relevance for a slightly larger chunk of change and, gentlemen, he will rue the day he made that choice.
Yours in Istanbul miracles,
David Hirshey has been covering soccer for more than 30 years and has written about the sport for The New York Times, Time, ESPN The Magazine and Deadspin. He is the co-author of "The ESPN World Cup Companion" and played himself (almost convincingly) in the acclaimed soccer documentary "Once in a Lifetime."