Fresh from setting a new record at club side Liverpool, having racked up 50 Premier League strikes quicker than any other player in the Anfield outfit’s history, Fernando Torres remains as fiercely ambitious as ever. Still known as El Niño (The Kid), though he is now a father himself, the 25-year-old spoke to FIFA.com about his fine current form and his goals for the future at club and international level.
FIFA.com: Fernando, last month you were included in the FIFA/FIFPro World XI 2009. How did it feel to know that over 50,000 professional players voted?
Fernando Torres: It’s a real source of joy and satisfaction as well a huge privilege. Receiving this kind of recognition from your fellow professionals is something very special, which fills you with pride. The fact they admire what you do spurs you on to keep improving, to try and continue forming part of this XI.
What’s your verdict on 2009?
Being included in the World XI without having won any silverware makes me even more motivated. What I mean is, though collectively we’ve not had the best of luck, on a personal note the balance is right and I’m doing my job well. I have to keep that going. We just need a little more luck as a team to be able to win a trophy.
Things have not gone well for Liverpool so far this season. Is the club capable of turning things around?
Unfortunately this season is not turning out how we’d wanted, but our best is still to come. Let’s hope that we can put a string of good performances together come the end-of-season run-in and the most pivotal moments, and that we can put right what we’ve not done so well up to now. And who knows, in May we might well be talking about how good a season it’s been. We’ve still got objectives to aim for.
In that case, is there confidence in the manager and within the squad?
Of course. We’re extremely confident that we can regain the position [in the table] that we deserve and that it’s still in our hands. We’re virtually the same team that finished second in the Premier League last season and we’re going to do everything we can to improve our situation.
With Spain, on the other hand, things are going extremely well, with La Roja winning all ten of their 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers. In your opinion, what was the highlight of the year for the national team?
I think that the most positive thing was how we bounced back after losing in the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup. In a way, that defeat did us good by helping us realise that the road to the World Cup wasn’t going to be easy, but that we had to stay on track. And what better way to do that than winning ten games in a row in qualifying. We’ve now recovered any confidence that we may have lost that day against the United States. What matters is we’re heading into the World Cup unbeaten and we want to finish it that way, without losing to anybody.
Do you think that defeat against USA has made you stronger?
I think that the squad’s always has its feet on the ground. Humility is the hallmark of this Spanish national side. But we’ve realised that anybody can have a bad day and that a bad day puts you out of the World Cup. That was made very clear to us at the Confederations! But we now know what we have to do so it doesn’t happen again. South Africa 2010 is our big chance and we don’t want to waste it.
Spain have been drawn in Group H for South Africa 2010 alongside Switzerland, Honduras and Chile. How do you rate your group rivals?
As I was saying, the defeat against the USA taught us that any team can make life hard for you. You have to have a lot of respect for every opponent. Our goal is to take each game as it comes and finish top of the group. Whoever we face in the Round of 16 will be fearsome, whether we finish first or second, because there are some of the best teams in the world in Group G. But if you want to be world champions you have to be ready to take on any national side.
Your winning goal in the final of UEFA EURO 2008 clinched Spain’s first trophy at senior level since the 1964 European Championship. Can you see yourself repeating the feat in a few months’ time?
We all dream of winning another final, particularly at a World Cup which is what every footballer aims for. I think that at one time or another we’ve all pictured ourselves being photographed lifting the World Cup. Let’s hope that it happens this time round. We know it’s difficult, but we’re going to give everything we’ve got because we’re in good form and we may not find ourselves in a situation like this again.
Pele has said that the current Spain side reminds him of the Brazil team which triumphed at Mexico 1970. What is more, that Seleção also went into the FIFA World Cup finals after winning all their qualifying matches.
When a football legend speaks, you just have to listen. It’s an added motivation for us. However, that’s also a warning shot for our opponents and will make them more defensive against us. Let’s hope that once the World Cup is over we can say that Pele was right.
What’s your wish for 2010?
Just as every year, my wish is that we’re lucky with injuries. Not just me, but all my team-mates too because there are some very big matches coming up and that way we’ll be competing on a level playing field. If that’s the case, may the best team win.