Fernando Torres or Luis Suarez; which majestic forward had the most impressive opening 12 months after signing for Liverpool?
A No. 9 and a No. 7, both brought in with expectation and anticipation, and for massive fees well in excess of £20 million.
When the Spanish striker Torres arrived at Liverpool in the summer of 2007, he was a talented yet perhaps a little raw forward who thrived on open spaces behind defences where he could utilise his explosive pace to its full potential. Aged just 23, he had yet to develop completely in a tactical sense, though he would make huge strides to perfecting this within his first season.
Luis Suarez, for his part, arrived at Anfield shortly after his 24th birthday and though he had originally been targeted as a forward partner for Torres, never got the chance to play with him as Torres departed Liverpool the same day as Suarez signed. For his previous club Ajax, Suarez had been a prolific scorer in the defensively-weaker Dutch Eredivisie, though his position had altered between a true central forward and a wider support attacker.
Below we examine the main statistics and talking points from each player and also look at more detail into what they achieved during their first year with the club, along with how they were perceived.
*Technically Suarez has yet to finish an entire year with the club, having signed at the very end of January 2011, though since part of Torres’ own first year included two preseasons, it seems a reasonable enough comparison to try and judge who fared best at this point, especially since Suarez will take no further competitive part for Liverpool during what remains of his first year at the club.
As ever it would be interesting to hear your thoughts—leave your comments below and don’t forget to vote!
After signing in early July 2007, Torres joined Liverpool on a pre-season visit to Asia, getting around a month to settle into his new surroundings before making his competitive debut for Liverpool against Aston Villa in the first game of the new Premier League season.
‘Nando netted his first competitive Reds goal in his first home match, scoring against Chelsea at Anfield in a 1-1 draw. He followed this up with a home brace against Derby in September as well as netting his first Reds hat-trick in the same month, notching three goals in a League Cup tie against Reading, his first Liverpool goals away from Anfield.
At the end of November Torres scored his long-awaited first Champions League goals, scoring twice in a superb 4-1 rout of Porto to help put the Reds within a single victory of a place in the next round, despite only having taken a single point from their first three group games. However injuries had started to hit in this month and he missed a couple of games while recovering, including a frustrating 0-0 against Blackburn Rovers which saw a host of chances wasted.
A busy December saw a return of five goals from seven games as El Niño really started to get to grips with the English game. New Year strikes against Wigan and Middlesbrough took Torres’ total to a terrific 17 goals in his first 22 games in a Red jersey, despite the few knocks along the way he had taken which had seen him miss out on both Premier and Champions League matches.
Back-to-back Anfield Premier League hat-tricks in February and March against Middlesbrough and West Ham United saw ‘Nando surge past the 20-goal mark in his debut season, while he also netted against Newcastle United, Inter Milan, Reading and Merseyside rivals Everton made it a fantastic March. Two goals in the last two games of the Premier League season saw Fernando Torres finish on 24 league goals for the season—in doing so setting a new Premier League record for the highest number of goals for a foreign newcomer’s first season.
The campaign ended trophy-less after the Reds were knocked out of the Champions League in the semi-final by Chelsea, though a fourth-placed Premiership finish ensured there would be more European nights to follow the next season.
Torres ended his first campaign as Liverpool’s No. 9 with a hugely impressive 33 goals in 46 games, an average of 0.72 goals per game.
His all-round game had noticeably improved and his traits were becoming abundantly clear to fans and opposition players alike—those runs into the channels, the slowing up in possession before the burst of pace took him clear, the feint to shoot before turning inside when closing in on goal—but that didn’t appear to have made him any easier to stop.
‘Nando had achieved hero-worship status in his first year at Anfield after becoming the first player since the legendary Robbie Fowler in 1996-97 to reach the 30-goal mark in all competitions.
Injuries had been fleeting concerns at different points throughout the season, but this was largely attributed to his adjusting to the more physical demands of the Premier League, and the lack of a winter break that he was used to in Spain. In hindsight, perhaps those initial injuries are viewed now more as a sign of what was to come in the following seasons.
One other highly noticeable trait about Torres during his first campaign on Merseyside was how hard he was prepared to work for the benefit of the team. As much as another well-taken goal would lead to the Torres “bounce,” fans all over Anfield were encouraged and would applaud to see the No. 9 racing back to make a sliding tackle behind the half-way line, even if he had not originally lost the ball.
In signing on deadline day of the January transfer window of 2011, Luis Suarez became the first major signing of the new owners NESV and immediately took over the vacant No. 7 jersey, made famous before him by the likes of Kevin Keegan and, coincidentally, his new boss—Kenny Dalglish.
The transfer was something of a drawn-out process, with initial reports of a bid from the Reds coming as far as three weeks prior to the conclusion of the deal, and by the end of it the Uruguayan was somewhat overshadowed by the arrival of Andy Carroll for a British transfer record.
Upon arrival, perhaps unlike Torres, Luis already had a great appreciation of space and how best to exploit it against different defenders, be it the brute-force kind or the more technical, balanced type. He would come across both in his opening months on Merseyside and flourish.
Suarez did not have long to wait to make his Liverpool debut, appearing off the bench against Stoke City at Anfield just after the hour mark. His immediate willingness to run at defenders with the ball got supporters excited straight away—and only a quarter of an hour after beginning life as a Red, Suarez got his first goal, taking on the ‘keeper and finding the net via a scruffy finish off the defender and near post.
After sitting out the next game (vs Chelsea) as an unused sub, Suarez made his first start two weeks after arriving in a 1-1 draw against Wigan Athletic, before creating the only Reds goal of the game in a 3-1 defeat to West Ham United.
Already it was hugely apparent that Liverpool had signed an immensely talented player capable of great things in and around the penalty box; in a very different way to Fernando Torres but every bit as dangerous. His skill on the ball and speed of turn was already causing Premier League defenders great problems, and though he had only scored once in his first three matches he had shown himself anything but afraid to shoot.
The following performance, against Manchester United at Anfield, was arguably the best individual display the Premier League witnessed during the 2010-11 season.
Suarez single-handedly tore United’s defence to shreds, occupying three and four players at once on numerous occasions, and coming out on top. His sublime run and close control on the left side of the area led to Dirk Kuyt opening the scoring, and the Dutchman would go on to complete his hat-trick after following in a Suarez free-kick which had been parried.
Three goals for Kuyt, but the entire watching world was in no doubt as to who the top performer was.
The assists were not Suarez’s first for the Reds, and he was proving himself a great all-round forward who’s trickery and agility would provide as many chances for his team-mates as himself.
Ineligible for Europa League matches as a result of his participation in Europe with former club Ajax, Suarez missed the double-header against Sporting Club Braga before notching his second goal for the Reds against Sunderland, with an audacious effort inside the near post after more bewildering skill on the touchline which was fast becoming a Suarez trademark.
Another trait, similar to Fernando Torres in fact after his arrival, was Suarez’s complete dedication to the cause, tracking back runners and harrying defenders, giving them no time on the ball to play their way out of defence.
While goals were not forthcoming for the forward in the following month, his performances continued to be of the highest order as he played a major part in wins over Manchester City and Birmingham.
Into the final month of the season and Luis scored twice in two games against Newcastle and Fulham, showing predatory instincts to notch in both cases, as Liverpool chased a Europa League spot, which was in the end out of reach after successive defeats to end the campaign.
With his country Uruguay in summer action with the Copa America, there was no great rest for the talismanic forward as he went all the way to Final glory with his nation, earning the Best Player accolade and scoring four goals along the path.
An extended and enforced break before the 2011-12 campaign got up and running meant Suarez played no part in the preseason preparations of the club, and there were concerns that Kenny Dalglish would have to nurse him through the early part of the season to prevent over-tiredness and injuries.
Three goals and a missed penalty in the first four games of the season allied any of those fears as Suarez continued his blistering and eventful form of the previous campaign and, naturally, fans rose El Pistolero onto a pedestal as the face of the latest Champions League-places charge.
The now-famous “I just can’t get enough” tune began to ring out with huge frequency every match from the Kop, at home or away fixtures, and was soon adopted and adapted by other teams’ fans for their own favourite players.
Early season link-up play between Suarez and a new forward signing, Craig Bellamy, gave fans plenty of hope that a fast-paced forward line would be the order of the day, after they seemed to gel instantly against Brighton in a tricky-looking League Cup tie.
Defeats to Spurs and Stoke brought out the frustrated side of Suarez as he was booked in both games, while substitutions of the player against Wolves and Brighton—both of whom he scored against—also drew frustrated reactions from an immensely competitive individual.
October brought a very mixed bag for Suarez. A first Merseyside derby for the Uruguayan saw him fouled by Jack Rodwell, who was harshly sent off, despite it still being a foul, and the beginnings of a media portrayal that Suarez dived at every opportunity.
While he was certainly used to going to ground when defenders were in close attendance behind him, Suarez was targeted thereafter at every opportunity by mind-numbing, parrot-like pundits who, instead of examining what was actually happening, chose to merely voice the popular opinion of the day.
The same fixture against Everton brought another goal and a 2-0 win, before controversy was sparked in a match against rivals Manchester United.
A 1-1 draw in the match itself after Suarez had again terrorised the Red Devils backline was put in the shade after allegations of racist comments were made by United defender Patrice Evra. After much delay Suarez was eventually charged with the same offence by the FA, and a drawn-out decision making process was begun, which would not conclude until late December.
Norwich City were the next visitors and after a 1-1 draw was all Liverpool could take against another promoted side, questions were asked of Suarez’s finishing prowess; to this point he had notched five goals for the season from one of the highest numbers of shots out of any player in the Premier League, and the feeling from some quarters was that Suarez—and Liverpool in general—were not being clinical enough. Those questions were temporarily put to bed as, in the very next game, Suarez scored twice away to Stoke in the League Cup with very different goals to drag Liverpool from a losing point to victory, the first being a quite spectacular piece of skill and finishing.
Suarez encountered a barren run of form in goal-scoring terms during November as he failed to score in any of the four games, though performances in general were still pleasing. Luis’ skill and movement made him a real thorn in defenders’ sides and always made him the go-to man for the Reds’ attack.
Six games without a goal came to an end at home to QPR in December, though it looked for a while as though it would be a case of the same old story as Suarez spurned chances to put Liverpool ahead before heading the only goal of the game in the second half, his eighth of the season in all competitions.
Liverpool saw out 2011 unbeaten from that point on, but Suarez did not score again and missed the final match against Newcastle due to suspension for a post-match incident against Fulham.
Having been served with an eight-match ban and £40,000 fine by the FA’s panel for the incident involving Patrice Evra, prior to the first match of 2012 Suarez and Liverpool decided not to appeal the ‘guilty’ verdict, despite continuing to deny the allegation entirely. As a result, Suarez will play no further part in Liverpool’s season until Feb. 6th at the earliest—which would mark one year and four days since his Reds goalscoring debut.
His current Liverpool records stands at 12 goals in 34 appearances, 0.35 goals per game—half the rate that Torres scored at, though were it not for the six occasions he has struck the woodwork during this term, it could be considerably higher.
Have your say below on who you think was the best during the opening twelve months with Liverpool and why—and don’t forget to vote!