TORRES - IM AN ATLETICO FAN, I NEVER KISSED THE LIVERPOOL BADGE.
Fernando Torres believes that romance is dead in football, that nobody should be surprised to see one club's darling falling into the arms of another. Money talks, talent walks is the gospel according to Torres.
Questions kept being thrown at Chelsea's former Liverpool icon after training at Cobham, about what he would say to Steven Gerrard in the tunnel, how he would cope with Jamie Carragher's first tackle and how he would handle the venom of the Liverpool fans, who loved and lost him.
This very determined, very ambitious and very intelligent 26 year-old responded cogently, his each reply shredding into ever tinier pieces the fans' hope that their emotions could find an echo in players' hearts.
Kopites felt their relationship with Torres went beyond usual supporter-star affiliation, that a shared passion ran deep, particularly having read his book El Nino, seemingly a billet doux to Beatleville. To learn that their beloved had eyes for another felt the darkest of deceptions.
Liverpool fans should have checked the small print in the emotional contract, according to Chelsea's £50 million man.
"I never kissed the Liverpool badge. Never. No. No. I never did. I see some players doing that one week after joining a club, but the romanticism in football has gone. It's different now. People are coming and leaving." The shirt is a uniform not a skin.
"I only want to score goals and do my job. When I was born in Madrid, I was not a Liverpool fan or a Chelsea fan. I was an Atletico fan. I still am. They're the only badge I will kiss.
"I understand the fans will be angry. I am a fan of Atletico and couldn't understand when some of the top players left. Football is like this: from one day to another, people love you and then hate you."
Stressing he will not celebrate if he scores tomorrow, Torres resented the "Judas" and "traitor" jibes. "That makes no sense. I played three very good seasons at Liverpool, left massive money there, lots of goals, good performances."
His disillusionment with life at Liverpool has been deepening for some time.
"It was the last two years maybe, especially with the old owners [Tom Hicks and George Gillett]. I realised at the start of the season that expectations weren't so high.
"People were talking about Liverpool winning the Premier League or finishing in the top four, but the club has to go slowly. I could see from the beginning we were in the relegation zone.
"It's been a very tough season. Liverpool's progress has not been the best, they've had problems with the old owners and are in a difficult moment, but I helped the team and did my job all the time. When the new owner, John Henry, came and brought his team with him, the club was moving in the right direction. But they will need time while I'm at my best age to play football now.
"I took the decision to leave Liverpool because I heard about Chelsea's interest. When you have a chance of winning the Champions League and the Premier League, competing with the best, you can't say no. In life sometimes there are trains that come your way only once and you have to take that train.
"I was lucky to be involved in the Spanish team winning the European Championship and the World Cup, but I want to win at a club. Most of my Spanish team-mates have won all the trophies in the last two years. This is an ambition of mine. When I'm 40, I'd like to look back and see pictures of me as a champion.
"Chelsea were pushing hard for me and I really wanted to leave Liverpool, so I told them straight. I explained my situation, my feelings, and was honest with everyone – face to face. That was maybe 10 or 12 days before the window closed."
The personal involvement taken by Roman Abramovich in the deal particularly impressed Torres. "The owner made a big effort to buy me. The value of the players is going down at the moment, but he paid big money for me because he has confidence in me." The fee did not trouble Torres. "Ronaldo signed for Real at 100 million [euros], so anything can happen."
Abramovich's enduring commitment delighted Carlo Ancelotti. "I asked just for Fernando and David Luiz," said the Chelsea manager, "and the owner was able to buy both. In the January window it's not easy to buy important players like Fernando and Luiz. The club did a fantastic job to do this."
Torres clearly required little convincing. "I know the plans, the ambitions for the future," continued Chelsea's new No 9.
"I want to be involved in that future: building a great team, keep competing with Man United, Man City, Liverpool, Tottenham, fighting to be the biggest club in England and the best in Europe. I have to think about my career. It's a step forward, everyone agrees."
Being a pragmatist, Torres would have stayed. "I was under contract and, if no one wanted me, I'd have played happily. Obviously, Liverpool didn't want me to leave. I told them I wasn't going to change my mind. So they tried to get the best money and a replacement. I had to wait until the last few minutes of the window to sign for Chelsea."
Torres could do Liverpool a favour by stopping United from beating Anfield's record 18 titles. Chelsea lie 10 points behind United but play them twice. "We have more possibilities to close this gap," said Ancelotti. "We have more power, ability, strength, experience."
The Italian said he would consider whether to involve Luiz, who returns this morning after a flying visit to the Brazilian embassy in Lisbon, and whether to start Torres.
"I'd like to play against Carra because he's a top player," said Torres. "I like playing against the best, as I liked to play against John Terry and Rio Ferdinand. I'm expecting a hard game. I know Carra's a big Liverpool fan. As a footballer, I'm sure he understands my decision. I'm sure he wanted me to stay, but it's the same as when I was playing for Liverpool, it was a big disappointment for me when Xabi Alonso or Javier Mascherano left Liverpool. I understood why they did it, for a new life. Plenty of my ex-team-mates have congratulated me for this move.
"Stevie G was one of the first who called me and supported me, hoping the best for me maybe because he was in that situation once [flirting with Chelsea]. He's been a very good friend and team-mate from the first to the last."
Gerrard, Carragher and the Liverpool fans encounter their old friend tomorrow. "I won't be nervous," said Torres.