FERNANDO Torres is expected to be fit for the start of the season, but whether he will begin the next campaign as a Liverpool player remains uncertain.
While Arsenal are increasingly confident of retaining another Spanish World Cup winner, Cesc Fabregas, the news that the injury suffered by Torres -- soon after coming on as a late substitute on Sunday in the Final -- is not as serious as first feared will hardly dissuade Chelsea from bidding for the striker.
When Torres pulled up in apparent agony shortly before the end of Spain's victory over Holland, there were concerns that he faced months on the sidelines. Instead, The Times understands that Torres is confident he will be fit by mid-August.
Liverpool's opening Barclays Premier League game is against Arsenal at Anfield on August 15.
Liverpool confirmed yesterday that Torres had suffered an injury to an adductor muscle in the groin area of his left leg, but while he will have a scan before he goes on a three-week holiday in the next few days, he is not expected to require surgery and hopes that, with rest, he will have recovered by the time he returns to Merseyside at the start of next month.
Manchester City are also interested in Torres, but accept that Chelsea are the favourites to sign the 26-year-old, who returned to Madrid yesterday with the rest of the Spain squad to a hero's welcome.
Torres is understood to be highly disillusioned about the Merseyside club's prospects, with no sign of a breakthrough in their search for new owners, and, although he wore a Liverpool scarf as he celebrated on the pitch after Spain's 1-0 win over Holland in Johannesburg on Sunday night, Chelsea believe that a deal is looking increasingly likely.
Roy Hodgson, the new Liverpool manager, hopes to meet Torres soon, but his main hope of retaining the forward at the moment is based on Chelsea's lack of enthusiasm at meeting the Merseyside club's £60m-plus valuation of the player.
There is also uncertainty over the future of Steven Gerrard, Torres' Liverpool team-mate, although it was claimed yesterday that Real Madrid have been put off by the Anfield club's £60m valuation of the 30-year-old midfield player.
"The [Real] president [Florentino Perez] does not agree with Gerrard because he is 30 and Perez doesn't want to know," Ernesto Bronzetti, Real's transfer consultant was reported to have said. "Plus, Liverpool asked for €70m."