André Villas-Boas has insisted that Fernando Torres has been worth the British-record £50m fee paid to Liverpool to secure his services last January and believes he can still rediscover the goalscoring form of his early days in the Premier League.
Torres is expected to start Sunday's game against his former club at Stamford Bridge having shown only flashes of form during his spell at the London club. Villas-Boas pointed to the 27-year-old's recent all-round contribution as cause for optimism, and a burst of four goals in as many games in the autumn as evidence of improvement, though the Spaniard has still to justify the size of the fee required to prise him from Anfield at the turn of the year.
Yet, when asked if Torres was worth that amount, and if he would pay a similar sized fee now to sign him, Villas-Boas replied: "Of course. Of course I would. In a career or a person's life, you have better moments and worse moments. At the moment, Fernando's best moments in terms of goalscoring were the Liverpool days. That does not mean those days won't arrive in this club, and that does not mean that, at the moment, he is not performing for the team, because he is.
"Isolate the last four months with the goals he's scored [four in seven games in all competitions] and it isn't bad. A striker is not just there to put the ball in the back of the net. He's there to perform and create. We create enough opportunities if we're winning or losing games and, at the moment, our best goalscorers are our two midfielders [Frank Lampard and Ramires]. But for them to finish, someone is creating. The team is creating, so I'm happy at the moment.
"Fernando helped create our goal in Genk – that was a one-two [with Ramires] – so it's not just a question of numbers and goals scored. It's about how you make your team perform around you. He's one of the best suppliers of assists at the club, with four or five this season. He's assisting people and the team and getting wins out of that. I think Fernando has picked up from last season, not only with his form but physically and also with his availability and movement for the team. He's been back to his old sharpness, and goalscoring, and we're pretty happy with the way he's performed."
Raul Meireles, another player plucked from Liverpool, is also expected to start Sunday's game as Chelsea plunge into a seven-match run, culminating in the visit of the leaders Manchester City to south-west London in mid-December, that will go some way towards shaping their Premier League challenge, as well as their continued participation in the Carling Cup and Champions League. "Bearing in mind the calendar, it's important the team returns to the good standard we set in the beginning," said Villas-Boas. "It could be an ideal time to do that because we play teams like Liverpool, Newcastle and City."
The Portuguese has denied a Football Association charge over his post-match criticisms of the referee Chris Foy after Chelsea's defeat to Queens Park Rangers on 23 October but has opted against seeking a personal hearing with the governing body. "I have other things to do," he added. "I'm not worried. I understand that a charge cannot be taken lightly. This is the maximum body of English football and I respect that, but it doesn't mean I agree with it and it doesn't mean I have to defend it to death. The charge implies that I was calling the referee biased or questioning his integrity. I was not."