Though he has come a long way since his early days as a teenage prodigy at his first club Atletico Madrid, for Spanish football fans Fernando Torres will always be El Niño (The Boy). It was his winner against Germany in the final of UEFA EURO 2008 that ensured the 26-year-old forward's name will forever go down in La Roja history while he continues to make strides at club level with Liverpool.
Torres joined the youth ranks at his beloved Atléti at the age of ten, and within seven years had made his first-team bow for Los Rojiblancos - becoming the supporters' great red-and-white hope in the process. Having cut his teeth during the club's two-season sojourn in Spain's second division, once back in the top flight for the 2003/04 campaign Torres's progress was nothing short of meteoric.
After firing 84 goals in 214 league encounters for Los Colchoneros, in 2007 the powerful front-runner opted for a move to English Premier League giants Liverpool in a bid for regular UEFA Champions League football. And despite the pressure of inheriting the No9 shirt from Reds' legend Robbie Fowler, Torres thrived in his first season at Rafael Benitez's "Spanish Liverpool", firing 34 goals in 47 appearances for the Anfield club.
Freed from the burden of expectation that had at times weighed heavy on his shoulders at Atletico, the move to English football has helped this natural-born goalscorer fulfil his enormous potential. Having already gone down in Reds' history when scoring the club's 1,000th Premier League goal, Torres's explosive bursts of pace, technique, aerial ability and lethal finishing continue to earn him admirers in his new home city and beyond.
His time in the red jersey of Spain has been hugely productive from the off, claiming a winners' medal, finishing top scorer and being voted best player at the UEFA European Under-16 Championship in 2001, before repeating the feat at the continental U-19 event two years' later. His debut for the full national team came in a friendly in September 2003, while he was also part of La Roja squad for their heart-breaking early exits at EURO 2004 and the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, though he did hit three goals in four appearances at the latter event.
More than making up for these disappointments was the triumph at EURO 2008, Spain's first major trophy success in 44 years. And with Torres partnered by another world-class Spanish striker, David Villa, La Roja fans will be confident of more silverware in the years to come.