Atletico Madrid forward Fernando Torres rolled back the years with a King’s Cup double at Real Madrid on Thursday that was a reminder of the talented youngster who made his name at the club before taking England by storm at Liverpool.
Back at Atletico on loan after troubled stints at Chelsea and AC Milan, Torres showed he can still perform on the biggest stages with a goal in the first minute of each half of the last 16, second leg match at the Bernabeu.
His first was a superb left-footed strike from inside the penalty area and his second came after he turned inside Pepe and slipped a neat low shot past Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
The match ended 2-2, with Real twice levelling through Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo, and Atletico progressed to the quarter-finals 4-2 on aggregate where they will meet record winners Barcelona.
Now 30, Torres has returned to his boyhood club after seven and a half years that included the highs of 2010 World Cup and Euro 2008 and 2012 triumphs with Spain and Champions League and Europa League success with Chelsea.
However, there have also been plenty of lows, with many writing off the player still known as “El Nino” (the kid) as an expensive flop.
“When he was promoted from the (Atletico) academy he was really too young for everything that happened to him but he responded very well,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone, who played with Torres at the time, told a news conference.
“He left, he matured and now he is a man,” added the former Argentina captain.
“I am very pleased for him. The fans are happy and his arrival has been good for us even though some had their doubts.”
Simeone included Torres in the starting lineup in place of Mario Mandzukic, who is unwell, and the Croatia striker is likely to remain first choice up front for the La Liga champions.
However, if Torres can repeat Thursday’s feat on a regular basis he will give Atletico a valuable extra weapon in their La Liga, King’s Cup and Champions League campaigns.
With 18 matches played, Atletico are third in La Liga behind leaders Real and second-placed Barca and are through to the last 16 of the Champions League to face Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen.