Liverpool’s official website have published the transcript of an interview with our former striker Fernando Torres. The focus of the quotes is, of course, Steven Gerrard, who today celebrates his 35th birthday.
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Gerrard and Torres became one of the most feared partnerships in world football. Together, they inspired Liverpool to second place in the Premier League as well as a succession of strong performances in the Champions League.
The Spaniard scored an impressive 81 goals during his three-and-a-half years at Anfield, while Gerrard also enjoyed the most prolific years of his career playing just behind our No. 9.
Their telepathic understanding – as our official website describes it – is something that will go down in history. And Torres, who has since played for Chelsea, AC Milan and Atletico Madrid, admits that he’s never found anyone else that’s understood him like our midfield hero.
The pair reunited at the Anfield Charity match earlier this year, when Torres joined forces with Gerrard and another former favourite – Luis Suarez. The 31-year-old was given a warm welcome on his return to Merseyside and it was then that he gave this interview…
How much did you know about Steven Gerrard before you joined Liverpool?
Everybody knew about Stevie. [I was] playing in a different league, in a different country at that time I was thinking to play for Atletico forever, with no plans to move. But here in Spain we were starting to follow the Premier League a lot, a lot of Spanish players were going there and it was very attractive football to watch.
One of the big names was Steven Gerrard from Liverpool. There were others for other top teams but he was just different. I remember in the UEFA Cup final against Alaves, a Spanish team, he was so young and he scored one of the goals. Everyone was expecting this player to be one of the best and obviously he is and he was.
What were your first impressions of him when you first arrived at Melwood?
For me, one of the most important things when I start talking with Rafa about going to Liverpool was to know what the big names of the club thought about that possibility. Rafa, Pepe, Xabi they were calling me to ask me to go and I also asked them what Gerrard said. He was happy for me to go – perfect. When I arrived there, it was so simple for me to play with him, I need these players to be good. After a few training sessions and games, I started realising that he was comfortable with me playing in a position he didn’t know before. With Alonso and Mascherano behind, he could play with more freedom and with me up front, he was starting to be comfortable. For me, it was great because I had Stevie close and it’s easy to know every time he got the ball he was going to look for you. You only have to move and receive the ball, that’s so simple for me. There is a before and after for me – before I moved to Liverpool and start playing with him and after I left Liverpool. I’ve missed playing with him every single game to today.
Was it important to know Stevie wanted you at Liverpool?
Stevie always wanted the best players to go to Liverpool because he wants to win and he’s not one of those players who has jealousy about the other players coming to the club. He knows it’s going to be different and special for the fans and there’s only one Gerrard. When I was there, he always was asking to bring good players. It was important to know him and the way he was. It’s one thing what you see on TV and it’s different what you see when you are training with him and you can see the kind of person he is. It’s so simple for any player who goes to Liverpool to go to him and ask him anything. We were not very close [as in] going out together or having dinner because I was closer to the Spanish guys and did not speak English at that time. On the pitch, it was different. I found the player I was always looking for. It was a privilege.
Did you get the impression that he learnt from you?
No, I have nothing to teach him. I think we learned to play together and every game and every year we were better playing together because we could adapt to a different formation or situations. Every training session, we learned something new as a partnership. I learnt a lot from him, not just about football, but how to be a captain. When I was at Atletico I was captain but I was very young and maybe it was not the right thing for me because I did not have enough experience to guide the other players. I understand what it means to be captain – it’s not just talking, it’s the behaviour and we only needed to follow him. I learned a lot of things from him and that makes me a better player. If in the future I have to be captain, I will take many of the things I learned from him.
What was it about Steven’s game that made you two so successful together?
I think for him to have a player up front who likes to run into the spaces so he can use all his quality was good, but it was even better for me because I really need this player. You have Gerrard behind you, it’s so simple to know that every time you only have to move and find the gap to receive the ball because it’s going to be there in the right time and right place. The only thing I needed to do was to look for the space. That was very simple because we had a great team and Alonso and Mascherano did a great job in the middle to give Stevie freedom. In the games Stevie was injured, or I was injured, or he was suspended, or I was suspended, when I was in the stands watching him, I was wishing to be on the pitch. Every time he got the ball, I saw the space – and everytime I was on the pitch and he was in the stands I missed the way he was looking for me. In my career, I will never find a player like him who understands my game like he did. I have been lucky enough to play with great players but with him it was different because I knew at that time that he trusted I could do anything and he was giving me the ball because he wanted me to take the responsibility and he was sure I was going to do well. That’s a great thing for me, because I had the support of Stevie.
What is it like to go onto the pitch knowing he is always going to find you?
When I moved from Atletico to Liverpool it was just one step forward in my career but I never thought about where my limit was. It was one more step, I wanted to enjoy Liverpool and the Premier League and that’s it. But when we started playing together and we had some conversations, he changed my ambition. I felt that I could be much better than I thought but always with him. I felt like I needed him to be complete. When I left, I remember a lot of time I was remembering these conversations and I felt I needed him to be better. I missed that part of my game, I needed the guy who passed me the ball to try and find me in the difficult situations to give me the confidence.
You had some great wins in Europe together – how key was Stevie in that?
He is in the majority of the pictures I have of me celebrating goals, because he was the one who gave me the assists. Even my first goal for Liverpool against Chelsea was a clear example that this is what we needed. Sometimes, even if you know things are going to work, you need proof and that was the clear picture. I think it was Alonso regaining the ball, looking for Gerrard and passing into the space right behind defenders – this is the football we wanted to do with Benitez. It was the two or three most important things: quick recovery, pass, and Stevie looking for me. It was great.
How important is Stevie to Liverpool fans?
I’m sure he’s going to be remembered forever as one of the biggest – if not the biggest – legends in the club. And that’s huge, it’s Liverpool – one of the biggest clubs in the world. I’m sure he’s very proud of that and I’m very proud of him. I would have liked for Stevie to play for Liverpool forever and forever but sometimes in life you cannot choose what is better for everybody. You can see the reality, everybody understands his position, and even if they don’t understand they respect his decision because they all love Stevie. Everything he did; you can see the top teams and the clubs, it’s difficult to find a player who stays in the good and the bad times. He had great times, bad times, but he was always ready for the next challenge and this is what Liverpool supporters ask of the players. Give your passion, your love, your entire life for the club and he did and with great results.
Do you think Steven knows the influence he has had on players like you?
I’m sure he knows. He knows he’s important and one of the references for everybody to go to Liverpool. He’s the main player, the main man so he knows everybody is looking at him. But the way he is, he doesn’t have to act, he is this way. He is always going to be able to give you a hand or help in the bad times. On the pitch it’s what you see. When you see Stevie playing and running and pressing and tackling – who are you not to do the dirty work? You have to follow him. This is the way to be a captain. You have to follow your captain and he is doing everything. I’m sure he knows the big influence he has, especially on the younger players. After that it is on you to follow him. It always happens that some players think they don’t have to do these things, that’s why he’s a perfect example. He’s one of those players that everybody respects and have admiration for because it’s not just that he’s fantastic with the ball, which he is, it’s all the other parts that make him a complete player like he is.
How would you describe him in one word?
Different. He’s just different to any other player I have seen in any other club in the world.