Rafa: Torres may never be same again
Rafael Benitez says he is unsure if Fernando Torres will ever return to the levels he showed at Liverpool and hinted the striker has lost his fearsome pace because previous Chelsea managers gave him the wrong training programme.
Torres flourished under Benitez when the pair worked together previously and the new interim Chelsea manager is now charged with finally coaxing some form out of a player who has failed to spark since his record £50m move to Stamford Bridge in January 2011. Benítez, though, remains confident he can help improve the striker.
"He's not exactly the same player now, because he was at maximum level at this time (at Liverpool)," said the manager. "But I think he can come back. How close? I don't know. It depends on the rest of the team.
"I'm sure he can improve, but the team has to help him. The first thing is to give him some confidence, in instructions as to how he can do things in a different way. Improve him a little bit physically."
And Benitez, who can expect another frosty reception when he leads Chelsea out against Fulham tonight. added: "Fernando had real pace. It's not because he's getting older or injuries. He has to train in a way that suits him. The movement he has to do will take some time.
"We worked with him and Oscar today to try and find this understanding. It's a question of time, but we know we have to change the movements we're working.
"You have to work in the gym on strength. Maybe he needs to do that again. For each player, maybe you need something specific. Fernando needs some exercises that we will try to do for him, but we will do the same for Oscar, we will do the same for Ashley Cole and Lampard."
The new Chelsea boss, however, denied he was under pressure to stick with Torres as his main point of attack after suggestions previous Blues managers had been given the impression by owner Roman Abramovich that the club's record signing must play.
"It's easy at the moment because (Daniel) Sturridge is still injured,' he said. Sturridge is Benitez's only other recognised centre-forward which may prompt the former Liverpool boss into the January transfer window.
Benitez refused to bow to pressure to apologise for his controversial comments about Chelsea as he prepared to run the gauntlet with their fans again.
Blues supporters yesterday called for their new manager to say sorry for what they perceive as criticism of them while he was in charge at Liverpool.
Benitez endured a savage reception upon his introduction as Chelsea boss in Sunday's Barclays Premier League draw against Manchester City and fan groups have suggested there will be no let up in tonight's west London derby with Fulham.
The chair of Chelsea Supporters' Group said an apology would help win over some fans, but, as during his unveiling, Benitez questioned the accuracy of some of the quotes attributed to him.
"The problem is we can analyse what I said and didn't say," he said. "We can't be checking if it's true or not. I'll try my best to win their trust. That's it."
One comment that is beyond dispute is Benitez's praise of the passion of Liverpool fans, which included a sideways dig at that of Chelsea supporters.
The quote has been immortalised at the Reds' Melwood training ground and pressed on whether he would apologise for it, he said: "I was praising the fans of my club, my team.
"But I'm here now, it's my club, and I will do my best for them. That's my explanation, very easy and very simple. I will try to defend my club, and this is now my club." (© Daily Telegraph, London)