My tribe

Why Chelsea must beat Man Utd for Sneijder to get best from Torres

If he wants to get the most from his £50 million investment in Fernando Torres, then Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich needs to rip up his summer transfer plans and start again.

Hulk (Porto) and Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid) for centre-forward you can understand and there is a need to try again for Porto fullback Alvaro Pereira. But in midfield, where Abramovich has sent out feelers for Lille winger Eden Hazard and Juventus' forgotten wide man Milos Krasic, the approach needs a rethink.

You have to fancy there was more behind Sir Alex Ferguson's unprovoked attack on Rafa Benitez this week than simply the chance to needle the former Liverpool manager.

"Two or three years ago Liverpool beat us 4-1 at Old Trafford and that genius Benitez said they had planned to beat us by playing long balls in behind," barked the Manchester United manager.

"Remember that? Clown."

Abramovich, if he wants to do right by Torres, should be studying Ferguson's words closely. Because Benitez was right. At Liverpool, under Benitez, Torres regularly gave United skipper Nemanja Vidic a torrid time. With the quality of passing from Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso deep in midfield, Torres would consistently isolate Vidic and using his pace and six foot frame get the better of the big Serb. Goals and red cards haunted Ferguson and Vidic while Benitez had Xabi, Gerrard and Torres playing together.

Knowing Abramovich is planning another big spend this summer, could Ferguson have been attempting to steer the Russian away from the solution to his Torres dilemma?

Fast-forward to today and there's no-one on the books at Chelsea with the ability to ping a 30-yard ball over the shoulder of Torres. Juan Mata, whose bubbly personality has helped to bring him out of his shell this season, still isn't the type of midfielder to make the most of his countryman's strengths. And lining up Hazard or Krasic, as exciting additions they would be, still leaves the Blues short of a genuine, passing midfielder.

Andrea Pirlo, who ummed and aahed over joining Chelsea two summers ago, would have been ideal. Having swapped AC Milan for Juventus this season, Pirlo, still only 32, has used his range of passing - from deep - to inspire his new club to the Serie A summit.

That was a big miss for Chelsea, particularly given the scarcity of quality passing midfielders currently running around Europe.

It's no coincidence that Torres' form has improved under Roberto di Matteo. The Italian, schooled at MK Dons and West Bromwich Albion, employs a more direct brand of football than predecessor Andre Villas-Boas, giving Torres greater scope to run off the shoulder of his marker.

The intricate short passing of AVB just didn't work for the Spaniard. There was no open space to consistently run into as he waited for passing sequences to evolve. Under Di Matteo, with the tempo hastened, Torres is now finding himself free more often. It's no surprise his assists have also gone up, since the manager change, as Chelsea have used his pace to create openings.

Wesley Sneijder just seems the natural fit for Torres and Chelsea. The Dutchman is one player with the ability to receive the ball deep in his own half, get his head up and spray a 30-metre pass behind a defence.

This season has been a nightmare for Sneijder at Inter. After his on-off move to Manchester United fell through last August, he's found himself on the bench or in the stands as Gian Piero Gasperini and Claudio Ranieri both found ways of leaving him out of their plans.

After a frustrating 12 months, a move to London would appeal, where Abramovich can offer Sneijder a pivotal, guaranteed role bossing Chelsea's midfield, being the prime link between the back four and Torres.

It broke this morning in Italy that Inter are inviting offers for the Dutch ace, with Anzhi and United already in contact. Ferguson never invites controversy for the sake of it. Abramovich should be looking deeper into his wind-up of Benitez and thinking hard about challenging the Scot for Sneidjer this summer.

Chris Beattie
About the author

Chris Beattie

Have your say
  • Add your favourite leagues and clubs
  • Build your own personal news stream
  • Easily share your favourite stories
  • Connect with what your friends are saying

Select your favourite
leagues and clubs
to get started.

Already part of MyTribe?