After six months spent without his favoured number nine on his back – a spell which delivered just six goals in 26 appearances for Atletico Madrid – Fernando Torres should feel more like his former self in 2015/16.
Back where it all began for him following a return to the Spanish capital from AC Milan in January, the 31-year-old will be hoping to continue turning back the clock following a forgettable period in his career which has seen a star born at Vicente Calderon wane almost to the point of being unrecognisable.
He may still be ‘El Nino’ in the eyes of many Atleti supporters, but ‘The Kid’ who burst onto the scene as a precociously-gifted 17-year-old back in 2001 has been replaced by a man who has rather lost his way.
An emotional homecoming was intended to get him back on track, and the sporting romantics among us would love to see that style and swagger back in his stride, with opposition defences tormented by a striker on top of his game and believing in himself.
Inheriting his former jersey from the departed Mario Mandzukic is a step in the right direction, but the arrival of Jackson Martinez means the revolving door in Madrid is keeping everyone on their toes and offering no free passes – regardless of reputation or status at the club.
Torres should be seeing that as a good thing.
Martinez, while boasting a prolific strike rate in Portugal that has seen him linked with just about every major club in Europe at one time or another, is untested in La Liga and will undoubtedly require a helping hand at times, and periods of rest.
If Torres can make the most of the opportunities that come his way, who is to say that a late push for inclusion in Spain’s Euro 2016 squad could not be on the cards.
Were he to make the cut, the World Cup-winning forward would be looking to wrap up a third European Championship triumph in a row. The current international football betting markets suggesting that the 2008 and 2012 winners are capable of going all the way again in France and should they live up to those claims, ‘El Nino’ would also have the chance to net in his third successive final.
Torres, though, needs goals. A willingness to play his part for the good of the collective cause is a given, taking into account his personal ties with the club, but he, and Atleti, need more than that.
If he is to break back into Vicente del Bosque’s national team plans, then he will likely need to shift one of Alvaro Morata, Diego Costa or Pedro down the pecking order – in a side which is famed for its willingness to embrace the ‘false nine’ philosophy and make do without a natural striker altogether.
This will be no walk in the park for a man who has now gone five years without reaching double figures in terms of league goals scored for any one club – and has broken the 20-goal barrier in all competitions just once in that time.
The Torres of old is in there somewhere, though and it’s up to Diego Simeone to try and awaken the beast.