I must start this edition of "The Gold Rush" off with a disclaimer of sorts. As a blogger, I try as much as possible to be unbiased in my opinions. I'm afraid this won't be possible in this post. I have and will always have a soft spot in my heart for Fernando Torres. I've been watching the sport of soccer for 15 years and can safely say that Fernando Torres in his prime is one of the top 5 strikers I've ever watched personally.
From the years 2007-2009, Torres was arguably the best striker in the world. In a time before Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were putting up video game type statistics on a yearly basis, Torres combined for 60 goals in those two seasons for Liverpool. He was truly a joy to watch and I'll never forget how amazing he was at scoring goals in his prime.
Unfortunately, soon after that amazing run of form he sustained a knee injury and was never the same again. This doesn't mean he wasn't still a good player after coming back from the injury. It took him a long time to get back to full fitness and even longer for him to find his confidence. Being a world class striker is all about confidence. If you lack it, you are in really big trouble. That's what Torres suffered through for the majority of his stint at Chelsea. He looked a broken player and he became the laughing stock of the soccer world for his comical misses and high profile errors. It hurt my heart to see such a talented player humiliated like that.
He finally broke out of that slump around the 2013 season banging in 24 goals for Chelsea. He'd never return to the amazing form he'd shown just a few years earlier, but he was back to scoring goals. Torres has been stuck in a pattern ever since then of getting injured, losing confidence, then regaining his form. As you can see from this highlight video from last season after he returned home to his boyhood club Atletico Madrid, he can still score goals with the best of them despite being relegated to a supporting role:
When purchasing a Designated Player, the first thing you have to look at is on-field impact. Is that player going to perform at a high enough level to justify being one of the three highest paid players on your roster? Fernando Torres has slowed down since his amazing prime, but he's still scoring goals in arguably the best league in the world. In the past 12 months he's scored against Real Madrid and Barcelona both. There's no doubt he can still fill the back of the net when given the opportunity.
Put him in MLS where the pace of play is slowed considerably and the defending is a lot more suspect and he could become one of the league's top goal scorers instantly. Atlanta United will likely have a marginal inaugural roster at best, it's important that they make the absolute most of their Designated Players spots and sign high impact players. Torres has a very good chance of being this type of player if given the chance.
As mentioned before, Torres is a player who runs on confidence. When he's in the mood and things are going his way he can be the best player on the field on a consistent basis. When he loses that eye for goal and the bounces don't go his way, he can curl up into a ball and disappear from matches for long stretches. That is very worrisome, but it comes with the territory for any striker. You're just not going to find a No. 9 at this level that isn't streaky and isn't reliant on confidence.
At 31 years of age now and a birthday approaching in March, Torres would be 33 when he finally suits up for "The A". This has to be the biggest concern of a signing like this. While 33 isn't exactly decrepit, it's very much on the downside of the average soccer career, especially for an attacker. Obviously every player is different and should be judged on their own merits. Whether or not this is a deal breaker is something the team's front office would have to make a decision on, and nothing that can be speculated on by outside parties.
Torres is out-of-contract come Summer and Atletico have already made it known they won't re-new his contract. If Atlanta United can sign him to an incentive-laden deal for a modest base salary that could possibly be bought down with Targeted Allocation Money that wouldn't classify him as a DP it could be a something worth exploring. As much as I love Fernando Torres from a personal perspective, I'm not sure he'd be worth risking a DP slot on.