ROBERTO Martinez remains convinced that it’s only a matter of time before Fernando Torres comes good in a Chelsea shirt.
Hopefully for Martinez and Wigan Athletic, it won’t happen tomorrow when the two sides go head-to-head at the DW Stadium.
‘El Nino’ seemed to have the world at his feet in 2008, when his goal won the European Championships for Spain – their first ever major title.
At the time, Torres was deservedly regarded as the best striker on the planet, quite literally the best of the best.
Since then, however, his career has nose-dived in the most spectacular fashion.
Only 14 Premier League goals followed in 2008-09, while the following campaign saw him play on through the pain barrier, putting off needed-surgery, to ensure he’d be available for the World Cup.
However, a shocking tournament on a personal level highlighted Torres’ demise, and Liverpool couldn’t snatch Chelsea’s hands off fast enough when a £50m bid arrived at Anfield the following January.
Hopes that a new start at Stamford Bridge would help Torres rediscover his old self have so far failed to materialise.
But Martinez is not buying into the theory that Torres is a spent force at the age of just 27.
“The season started really well for Torres, but we have perhaps been too quick to highlight the things he didn’t do well,” Martinez said.
“In football that is easy to do. If you want to talk about how good Diego Maradona was at tackling, we could focus on it and he would get hammered.
“Torres started well, but then he had the sending off against Swansea and Didier Drogba came in and did well.
“That has probably forced him to take a backstage role, but he will be a key man when needed.”
While Torres’ stock has unquestionably fallen in this country since his Anfield heyday, hopes are high in his native Spain that he will eventually come good – possibly in time for next summer’s European Championships.
“I think Torres looked refreshed this season, he looked fit and in many ways looked like the player who scored all those goals at Liverpool,” added Martinez.
“And there is a real understanding in Spain about his situation.
“They know he is in a big team, and that there is a transitional period there with the likes of Nicolas Anelka and Alex leaving.
“There is an excitement looking forward to how the season is going to finish for him.
“The rest of the season is going to be a key time for him to get into the team so he can play for Spain and defend their Euro title.
“They are expecting he is going to have very good second half of the campaign.
“People in Spain believe that will happen and he will take his form into the Euros.”
Martinez also negates the idea that the burden of being the first £50m player in English football history has had any bearing on his struggles at Chelsea.
“The price tag is nothing to do with him,” Martinez insisted. “It is the market that sets that.
“The attributes of Torres is different to Drogba, but he looks refreshed and is back to the player he was before the World Cup.
“We know he took the chance by going to the World Cup when he wasn’t 100 per cent.
“But the desire he showed in wanting to do well for Spain was appreciated.
“Fernando is going to be fit from now and could have a major say in the title, because he can come into the side refreshed at a time when other teams are having a bigger demand on the players they can use.”
With the January transfer window about to open, there has already been speculation that Roman Abramovich may be willing to cut his losses and offload the player for a fraction of what he paid for him at the beginning of the year.
However, Martinez believes the former Atletico Madrid man won’t be fazed by such unsettling talk. “I feel Fernando has not been affected at all by it,” added Martinez.
“He is just getting ready for his chance and when it comes, he will take it.
“The team is doing really well and that helps. Sometimes to find your own form you rely on the team and that can trigger your own form.
“When a team is struggling to find itself, it can have a negative effect on you.
“But the moment the team is in now, with their wins over Valencia and Manchester City, probably is the perfect platform for him.
“A good player does not become a bad player overnight. It is just moments of form – and those moments of form are triggered by key moments.
“That could be a goal, a good run or the team doing well.
“I think Fernando Torres, even when he is not playing, is one of the most important players in the Chelsea squad.”