Ever since Fernando Torres kicked Liverpool into touch to move to Chelsea there has been talk of ‘furthering careers’, ‘ambition’ and ‘success’. Torres was at one of the biggest clubs in the world on a big contract, he was the star and scored plenty of goals but this wasn’t enough for the Spaniard which has led me to ask the question: what defines a successful career?
First I decided to look up the definition of success so that I could better understand attitudes towards player’s or club’s levels of achievement. The definition reads:
“1. attainment of wealth, position, honours, or the like.
2. a successful performance or achievement”
The general consensus among the media and fans is that Torres moved to Stamford Bridge in order to win honours and achieve his career goals. Liverpool may not have won any trophies during his 3 year spell but they were still successful enough to be considered an elite club and Torres met all of the above criteria for success apart from ‘attainment of honours’.
Wealth: Torres was one of the best paid players in world football during his time at Liverpool.
Position: Torres was undoubtedly Liverpool’s star player and was/still is considered one of the best in the world in his position.
Successful performance: The Spanish striker broke a number of goalscoring records for Liverpool.
In football though, trophies are seen as the real marker of success for a top player. Saving your club from relegation or topping the goalscoring charts is not enough to satify a player’s ambitions, see Charlie Adam and Darren Bent. Both feel that they need to be at a big club if they are to make a success of their career (Bent got his wish, Adam did not).
Loyalty is rare in the modern game and the vast amounts of money available to the teams mean that midtable clubs are always likely to lose their best players. Gone are the likes of Matt Le Tissier, who spent his entire career at Southampton despite numerous offers to play at a higher level.
The success (of lack of success) achieved by Le Tissier is often debated and many pinpoint the forward’s lack of ambition as a reason for his one-club career. But despite never playing in Europe or winning trophies he had a career that many great probably envy. He consistently scored great goals and is far and away Southampton’s best ever player, a tag that will mean he is forever remembered despite the lack of medals he has to show his children. Fans will always talk about how great Le Tissier was and argue about whether he should be admired or criticised for his loyalty. He has a special place in football history that is far more exclusive than that taken up by those with extensive honours on their CV.
Compare his career to someone like Wes Brown or John O’Shea whose medal collections mean that they are unanimously seen as successful. They may have won countless titles and cups but they are truly forgettable players, even from a Man United fan’s perspective. Years after their retirement they will be a distant memory in the minds of even the most avid supporters because they have spent the majority of their careers picking up trophies by sitting the sidelines. Is that success?
Steven Gerrard’s football career has been spent exclusively at Liverpool and as their captain he was won every honour in the game apart from that elusive league title. In 2005 and 2006 he came close to leaving Anfield for Stamford Bridge in a desperate effort to fill that single gap in his personal trophy cabinet before performing a spectacular U-turn. Gerrard changed his mind and decided that a league title at Liverpool would mean more than 10 at Chelsea. Since then he has been lauded for his loyalty but I don’t believe he should be praised for staying true to a club that has given him everything.
Gerrard may never win a league title but he will without a doubt be thought of as one of Liverpool’s greatest ever players and one of the finest midfielders of his generation. Torres may celebrate many title successes alongside the likes of John Terry and Didier Drogba but he has surrendered his chance to become a true legend, a player that will be remember fondly by Liverpool fans for decades to come. Now his goals will be greeted with bitterness, with that sense of what could have been, like a modern-day Stan Collymore.
When Gerrard retires at the end of his career and is given the greatest of send offs by the Kop,Torres may look at his medals (if he wins any) and his bank account and think “was it worth it?” I for one don’t think it will be.