Hat-trick hero Fernando Torres helped Liverpool make their best goalscoring start to a league season in over 100 years - yet manager Rafa Benitez has told him he is still not fulfilling his potential
Torres took just 47 minutes to claim his treble in the 6-1 victory over struggling Hull City at Anfield on Saturday, taking his tally for the season to eight goals. As a team, Liverpool have scored 22 times in seven games, their best opening to a campaign since 1895, although the demanding Benitez believes Torres, still only 23, is only scratching the surface of his ability.
"I think he can do better," said Benitez. "The last three games he has played well and was improving his mentality, his work rate. But the main thing is his mentality. When I talk about Fernando I say that he is keen to learn, that's the main thing. That means he will improve; how much he improves is down to him.
"When you think about the money we were spending when we signed him, £20 million was a massive figure for us. But we thought it was a really good figure and the main reason we decided to bring him here was his quality, his age, his potential and the future he has. We had confidence he would get better and we're really pleased now. But he can improve."
Hull showed spirit in the first half, Geovanni equalising Torres' first goal, before the visitors capitulated and conceded twice more to Torres before Steven Gerrard and Ryan Babel, who scored twice, piled on the misery. "For me, it was demoralising," said furious Hull manager Phil Brown. "I hope it was for the players as well. I was disgusted at some of the defending, individually, collectively.
"To throw away the third goal as easily as we did was disgusting. It killed us off and killed any spirit we had shown in the first half because one or two towels went in after that. It's going to be uncomfortable for one or two of them this week, myself included. There is a little bit of pain flying around at the moment and it's all coming my way. I think the players should show more pride in the shirt and their performance."
Liverpool, meanwhile, now start preparations for a midweek Champions League game at Fiorentina and Sunday's visit to Chelsea, a game that takes on added significance after the London club surprisingly lost at Wigan on Saturday. And, with 22 league goals under their belts this season, Liverpool suddenly look capable of mounting a title challenge. Benitez, certainly, expects the championship race to be far more open in 2010.
Benitez said: "The top side will lose games and I think you will see the top side losing more games this season than last. There will be more competition at the top. That's positive for the fans, for the media and I think the Premier League will be more fun this year!"