Torres gives Liverpool a huge boost
FERNANDO TORRES yesterday brought months of speculation to a close by committing his immediate future to Liverpool as the prospect of an end to the club's three years of financial plight under owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett drew closer.
Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton hopes to identify a preferred bidder by the end of next week as he seeks to secure a sale of the club before the close of the transfer window.
Though he is confident "several" offers have been made, no more than three formal bids are expected to be lodged.
The proposal put to Broughton and Barclays Capital (Barcap), the bank mandated to run the sale process, by the Chinese entrepreneur Kenny Huang -- backed by a Far Eastern sovereign wealth fund -- remains the most advanced.
Huang intends to clear the club's £237m debt, commence work on Liverpool's long-awaited new stadium and invest heavily in the playing staff.
Torres cited manager Roy Hodgson's personal touch and his own commitment to deliver a trophy to Anfield as reasons for staying.
Unlike Javier Mascherano, who used his first day back at the club's training ground at Melwood to demand a transfer, Torres appears to have settled back immediately.
If there was one thing that Rafael Benitez lacked, it was the personal touch. Torres, who recuperated after the World Cup near Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain, said yesterday that Hodgson's determination to fly out to do business face-to-face was an important gesture.
"I really appreciated the fact that Roy came to see me while I was on my holidays," said Torres. "He told me about his plans for the club, what he wanted from me and I appreciated that.
"This is the best club in England, so the targets and expectations are really high. Hopefully, we can stay at our level. At Liverpool the aim is to fight for every title. It was difficult last season, but I am sure we can improve."
Torres' decision to commit himself to a fourth season at Anfield barely a day after resuming means Hodgson's flight to Spain may be as significant as the journey to Lisbon made by Alex Ferguson after the 2006 World Cup when he persuaded Cristiano Ronaldo to remain at Manchester United, despite the furore surrounding his part in Wayne Rooney's dismissal in the quarter-final in Gelsenkirchen.
Injury has meant that Torres' second and third campaigns on Merseyside were not as influential as his first, which saw him score 24 league goals. Nevertheless, his last two seasons have produced 32 goals in 46 matches, strikes that have earned 23 points.
Those close to Torres pointed out that the groin injury sustained in a World Cup in which he failed to contribute a single goal to Spain's triumph, gave him time to reflect on his future.
His international strike partner, David Villa, observed that, unless Hodgson could engineer a dramatic upturn in Liverpool's fortunes, Torres could still leave in 12 months' time.
Nevertheless, like Steven Gerrard, Torres appears to have been impressed by Hodgson's first moves at Anfield, especially the signing of Joe Cole, the announcement of which immediately preceded Gerrard's own statement of loyalty.
"I have been talking to Stevie a lot and I also met with Joe Cole," said Torres. "Joe is exactly the sort of player we need to improve the history of this club. We are keeping our best players and it is nice to be back at the training ground with them.
"Joe is the kind of player I like to play with and the kind of footballer who can take the team to a higher level; his passing is unbelievable. I know that one trophy at Liverpool -- maybe the Premier League -- means more than three or four at another club. This was my target from the day I came and it is still my target.
"I am really happy to be back, really happy to stay with all my team-mates," added the 26-year-old.
"My commitment and loyalty to the club and to the fans is the same as it was on my first day when I signed." (© Daily Telegraph, London)