Fernando Torres was responsable for the second-highest attendance of the season at the Vicente Calderon on Sunday, despite the fact there was no match to see as 45,000 Atletico Madrid supporters welcomed ‘El Nino’ (The Kid)home.
Torres will be free to make his second debut for his boyhood club, for whom he scored 82 goals in over 200 appearances between 2001 and 2007, against their closest and bitterest rivals when Real Madrid come to the Calderon for the first leg of their Copa del Rey last-16 tie on Wednesday.
“I’m back at home after seven long years,” Torres said. “I’d been waiting a long time for this to come true and now my feelings are a bit strange. I still don’t believe this is real.”
However, the 30-year-old is well aware of the hard work that lies ahead of him if the real reality check is not to be for the thousands that attended his presentation on Sunday still in awe of the baby-faced assassin they saw leave for England during tougher times for the club. As Torres has struggled for form and fitness in recent years, at Chelsea and earlier this season in an ill-fated loan spell at AC Milan, Atletico have soared under his former team-mate Diego Simeone.
Since the Argentinian took charge three years ago, Atletico have only lost three out of 18 two-legged ties on route to winning the UEFA Europa League, the Spanish Super Cup and the Copa del Rey. However, one of those defeats came to Real in comprehensive fashion in last season’s cup semi-final, as Los Blancos ran out 5-0 winners on aggregate.
“The club has been able to build a team in which the word team is a strength and that has led to successes,” said Torres. “For my part, I have found a path which has given me great satisfaction, but something seemed to be missing.
“This reunion closes a circle that started when I was just ten years old, wearing this shirt, and now I hope to enjoy it. I will always give my all and more for this shirt because it’s what I feel. The fans know it is going to be like that.”