It’s been a tournament that many predicted would be the coming of age of the youth Spaniards call El Nino (The Kid) and, much to the delight of the Spanish brigade in Germany, so far they’ve been proved right. Fernando Torres has long been bracketed with Wayne Rooney and Lionel Messi as emerging talents that will rock the footballing firmament. With three goals in two games (briefly leading the scoring chart for the tournament) Torres has announced he is here to stay.
In some respects, Torres is the complete striker, equally adept at using head and either foot to find the back of the net. "Torres is so talented he never scores two goals the same," said Spanish national coach Luis Aragones. Selected ahead of the legendary Raul in the first two games, El Nino has struck sublime goals to cement his position before the pressure cauldron of the knockout stages.
Torres has not acquired the world-wide recognition accorded to other players of his talent because of his steadfast refusal to leave small hometown club Atletico Madrid. His loyalty has seen him decline lucrative transfer offers from some of the biggest clubs in Europe. But Atletico’s failure to qualify for the Champions League next season should see the 22-year old finally bid adieu to the fans who adore him and relocate to one of the top English sides.
In Spain’s 4-0 rout of Ukraine, he scored with one of the finest team goals of this tournament so far, as Puyol headed down for Torres to execute a brilliant first-time volley into the bottom left corner of the net. In the second game, as Tunisia gamely held on to their 1-0 lead for over 70 minutes, Torres was full of running and invention. After Raul’s equaliser, it was Torres who latched onto a splendid pass from fellow prodigy Cesc Fabregas and slotted home to give Spain the lead. He ensured his side would claim all three points when he drove home a 90th minute penalty he earned himself.
The tattoo that resides on his left arm reads ‘Fernando’ in tengwar, an alphabet created by Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkein. The journey is just beginning for this exciting youngster – and the world is learning his name.