The redemption of Fernando Torres

Fernando Torres’ career can be divided into two distinct parts: before he was sold to Chelsea for a then British record £50 million and after. In the “before” period, he was an unstoppable force worthy of sharing a nickname with a global weather pattern. In the “after” period, he was a punchline and the symbol of stunning ineptitude.

His three and a half years at Chelsea were followed by an utterly forgettable four months at Milan. And then he went back to Atletico Madrid, where his career began. In the coldest sense, the Atletico move seemed like a faulty product being returned to its manufacturer. At a human level, his homecoming was a feel-good moment and gave the sense that his career would be able to quietly fizzle out in a loving environment where criticism for his diminished form would be kept to a minimum.

He scored three goals in 19 La Liga appearances during the second half of last season, but twice in his first five appearances this season (the first coming against Barcelona). Then came an all too familiar 19 consecutive appearances without a goal before something incredible happened: a goal in five consecutive appearances for the first time in his career.

At 32 years old and six years removed from his Before Chelsea glory days, Fernando Torres has actually achieved a new personal best in scoring. Coinciding with this stellar form, Torres has earned four consecutive starts for the first time since returning to Atletico and scored against Barcelona in a Champions League quarterfinal (before getting sent off).

After Torres’ winner against Athletic Bilbao, Atletico Madrid are even with Barcelona on points atop La Liga, having knocked them out of the Champions League last week.

Scoring in five consecutive matches might seem like a relatively small accomplishment. For most players, winning major trophies is how they claim redemption. But part of the oddity of Torres’ career is the fact that he won his biggest club titles — the Champions League, Europa League, and FA Cup — in the midst of his dark period.

For Fernando Torres, this is what redemption looks like. Regularly scoring important goals for a major club as they challenge for the biggest titles late in the season. Contributing. Justifying his place in the starting XI. Proving he’s still capable.

Given the way he quietly endured a six-year curse that would have driven a lesser man insane, it’s just wonderful to see him revel in this unexpected goal cache. Unless, of course, you’re a Barcelona fan.

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