Friday, June 12, 2009

Torres talks about Gerrard and his Love for Liverpool

There are generally only two names in the mix when the title of best player in the world is under discussion and Steven Gerrard is never one of them.

The soon to be most valuable footballer of them all, Real Madrid's £80m man Cristiano Ronaldo, and his long-time rival Lionel Messi at Barcelona tend to be regarded as the best two talents the game has to offer, but one high-profile observer believes Liverpool's inspirational skipper is well worth a mention in this debate.

In the opinion of Spain and Liverpool striker Fernando Torres, 2010 could be the year that sees Gerrard earn the praise many of his admirers believe he is overdue, with the World Cup finals providing the ultimate stage to confirm his class.

While Gerrard collected the Player of the Year award from England's football journalists last month, the Liverpool talisman is always well down the pecking order when the more prestigious end of year prizes are handed out, but Torres is convinced all that could be about to change.

"When people talk about the best footballers in Europe, they always single out Messi, and Ronaldo, but Gerrard is just as strong," begins Torres, who confirmed his commitment to Liverpool by signing a new contract at Anfield last month.

"Messi and Ronaldo are special talents and the fact that they are in teams winning the important trophies means they stand out from the rest. Maybe you need to win something to earn the big awards, I don't know, but we all understand how good Gerrard is.

"I'm spoilt having a team-mate like Gerrard as I can count on him supplying me with perfect passes. You make the run into the space and however tightly marked he is, he finds a way to get the ball through in perfect condition.

"The highest compliment I can pay him is that he's as creative as a Xavi at Barcelona, with something extra as well. When you add his energy, toughness, leadership and goal scoring ability and the result is a fantastic all-round player.

"Maybe I am biased because he is my team-mate and friend, but Stevie does not get the credit he deserves either in England or with European fans. This can change in 2010 when he has a chance to confirm his class with Liverpool and in the World Cup."

You only need to spend five minutes in the company of Torres to appreciate just how deeply he has been gripped by his Liverpool love affair during the two highly-prolific years he has spent wearing the famous red No.9 shirt.

Idolised by the fanatics who call Anfield's Kop home, Torres is not merely paying lip service to his followers when he talks about his dream of winning the English league title, as he fully appreciates the significance of such a triumph.

Clearly hungry to win his first major trophy in a Liverpool shirt, Torres admits he has been caught up in a local battle that may not be a natural duel for a young Spaniard to get embroiled with.

"They say foreign players don't care as much as the home grown, but we are very much aware that Liverpool haven't won the Premier League for 20 years and understand the supporters are desperate for us to put that right," he continues.

"The rivalry with Manchester United is intense and the roof will come off at Anfield if we beat them to next year's title. Obviously the Champions League means a lot to Liverpool, but the English title is the one everyone wants in our dressing room.
"I was brought up at Atletico Madrid, where the love of the team's colours knows no bounds. It's the same at Liverpool, though on an even larger scale. We have fans not only in this city, but literally all over the world.

"Liverpool Football Club is a phenomenon, with millions of fans totally identify with everything the club stands for. They are at one with the players and that's why the backing we get at Anfield and from the away support is second to none.

"This club has it all: the history, the prestige, the fans, the organisation. It's a big responsibility to give the fans here the success they desire, but the challenge is always exhilarating and this is why I was delighted to sign a new contract.

"I can never feel flat during a game at Anfield as there's a unique solidarity as football is what our supporters live for and you don't always find this at the major clubs. Loyalty comes and goes for some clubs, but it's permanent for Liverpool fans.

"Now we need to win the big trophies and we can trust Rafa Benitez to keep the upward momentum going for us. He is a great manager and has helped me improve so much in my time at Liverpool. I left Spain when I was still young, but my manager has helped me to mature.

"I'm so happy in England. The crowds and the pitches we play on are perfect and the attitude is great. The biggest players like Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Cesc Fabregas know the first rule of the game is to put the team before themselves. This is why English teams are so successful right now."

After scoring the winning goal for Spain in Euro 2008 last summer, Torres endured a stuttering season at Liverpool, with fatigue appearing to get in the way of his ambitions.

With this in mind, some have questioned the wisdom of his participation playing in the Confederations Cup tournament in South Africa this month, yet he insists the breaks he was forced to take during the season means he can push his body through another tiring tournament this summer.

"I feel fine and I'm looking forward to this tournament," adds Torres. "I know I need to stay fit next season as this will help Liverpool win prizes and, obviously, the World Cup is the big target for Spain. Still the Confederations Cup is important also.

"Every time the Spanish national team comes together, we want to win. We're on a long, successful run at the moment and have standards to maintain. We have built up a tremendous amount of confidence and are a very proud set of players. The Confederations Cup would be nice but clearly the number one objective is to do really well at the World Cup.

"It's normal for us to be highly-rated when people think about the World Cup as we are the European champions. Barcelona's Champions League victory is bound to raise expectations too and this is something we have to live with.

"Still, the World Cup is our biggest test. So many times in the past Spain have promised a lot, but failed to deliver. We showed what we are capable of last summer and I'm confident of more of the same next year. Not only do we have the talent, we love being together as a group and this unity can take us long, long way."

If a poll was taken to crown the best striker in the world, Torres may well come out on top. Should he stay fully-fit for the upcoming season with Liverpool and Spain, he may well challenge Ronaldo, Messi and even Gerrard for the title of best footballer in the world 12 months from now.

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