The Spanish striker will want to forget his first game for Chelsea after failing to make any impact against his former club Liverpool
Fifty million quid means that you are not entitled to much in the way of allowances, so it is not really being harsh to suggest that yesterday Fernando Torres made the worst debut by an expensive Chelsea centre‑forward since Chris Sutton arrived for a record fee from Blackburn Rovers in 1999. Sutton, too, made his first appearance in the blue shirt at Stamford Bridge, after his £10m transfer from Blackburn Rovers, and early in that match he made such a mess of a straightforward one-on-one with the opposing goalkeeper that his career in England never recovered.
The comparison became irresistible only 90 seconds into yesterday's game, when Maxi Rodriguez, Torres's old team‑mate, inadvertently made Chelsea's new star a present of the ball with a wayward square pass inside the Liverpool half. With the ball at his feet, and Liverpool's back three spread across the field, Torres had only Martin Skrtel, 10 yards away, blocking his path as he started for goal.
And then, unmistakably, he bottled it. He was still five yards from Skrtel and 25 yards from goal when he let fly with his right foot, unleashing a shot that sheared off his boot and flew high and wide of Pepe Reina's goal. Not even close.
All would have been forgiven by the blue hordes had he gone on to redeem himself. But after half an hour, when Didier Drogba ran down the inside‑right channel and measured a fine straight pass for Torres, Jamie Carragher flew across to dispossess him with a superlative sliding interception.
His worst moments came in the 33rd minute, when he put an end to a promising Chelsea counter-attack by sending a pass intended for Ashley Cole several yards behind the full‑back and straight into touch, and two minutes after that, when he handed the referee a small object – possibly a cigarette lighter – that appeared to have hit him after being thrown from among the Liverpool fans in the south-east corner of the Shed end.
They had greeted him with a couple of defiant banners: "He who betrays will always walk alone" and the slightly more obscure "Ya paid 50 mil 4 Margi Clarke". They have long memories in Liverpool. For Letter to Brezhnev, the film in which Clarke starred a quarter of a century ago, read Letter to Abramovich.
"We've got Fernando," the Chelsea fans sang, before the nature of his performance forced them to fall silent and endure the derisive laughter as Torres was removed just after the hour.
Buying an injured player is always a risk, and so is buying a striker who has been out of form for the best part of a year. At Anfield in November Torres scored the two unanswered goals that knocked Chelsea out of their stride, and soon off the top of the table, and perhaps convinced Chelsea's owner to blow the cobwebs off the PLC's chequebook. But yesterday the Spaniard was the same opaque, listless, peripheral presence that we saw in South Africa during the summer, while his Spanish team‑mates were getting on with the job of winning the World Cup, and virtually throughout Roy Hodgson's time at Anfield.
Sutton, so prolific at Ewood Park when Blackburn Rovers were making the most of Jack Walker's beneficence, played 29 league matches for Chelsea and scored just one goal before being moved on at a loss of £4m to Celtic, where he prospered. If Torres is to find his feet in his new environment, Carlo Ancelotti will probably have to make a serious tactical adjustment in order to accommodate his requirements.
The Frank Lampard of a couple of years ago might have been the man to provide the necessary opportunities inside the penalty area, but Lampard, like several of his colleagues, is some way below his peak effectiveness. Sticking the newcomer alongside Drogba, with Nicolas Anelka in support, is Ancelotti's gamble.
As for Liverpool, Paul Konchesky slipped out of the club last week to spend the remainder of the season on loan at Nottingham Forest, forever to be branded as the symbolic figure of Hodgson's unhappy reign. "Not a Liverpool player" were the words that formed themselves on many lips, including these. The ill-fated Hodgson took Konchesky from Fulham to plug a hole foolishly left uncovered by the previous administration, and in the circumstances he was found wanting. But what if the true symbol of Hodgson's era turned out to be Raul Meireles?
It was Meireles who delivered Liverpool's goal yesterday, once again while running tirelessly in support of Dirk Kuyt, himself a phenomenon of selfless industry. In terms of his effect on the match, Kuyt totally eclipsed Torres, while Meireles, after a slow start at the club, suggested that by paying Porto £11.5m, Hodgson presented an ungrateful Liverpool with a genuine bargain.