Thursday, February 12, 2009

Generalissimo del Bosque is more than ready to grab a ruler and see who's bigger

One of these pictures shows a ruthless dictator, filled with disregard for the people whose lives and fates mean nothing to him. The other is of Generalissimo Francisco Franco.

The best way to get a Liverpool supporter writhing around and gnashing his bared fangs at any sudden movement is to tell him Spain is playing somewhere in the middle of the Premier League season. Despite my deep fondness for Spain, the way they play and how Rafa's connection with that country's players has helped transform Liverpool for the better, my primary concern with these international breaks is this:

Luckily, it appears by all the accounts I've read that Torres made it through 64 needless minutes against England last night without aggravating those million-dollar hamstrings that we always worry about. But Spanish manager Vicente del Bosque couldn't help himself in the post-match news conference. Knowing Rafa is going to urge caution with how Torres is used in a meaningless international friendly pitting Spain at home against an experimental England filled with players who are as likely to see 90 minutes at a time at South Africa 2010 as yours truly, del Bosque slyly winked at the assembled journalists and made a deadpan comment about Liverpool's No. 9 being returned to club duty completely fit. No muss, no fuss, in so many words.

It appears from some of the articles about the Spain-England match that del Bosque's line drew some knowing chuckles from the scribblers eating up their latest angle for the "Isn't Rafa goofy and neurotic?" storyline. Well, isn't that precious.

But whatever del Bosque hoped to accomplish with that stupid, stupid friendly that proves nothing, his carefree attitude toward Torres' health does a tremendous disservice to Torres. Torres played 64 minutes. David Villa played 55. Why? It was clear to the world Torres wasn't fit, despite the three goals he scored in Liverpool's previous two League matches, the boy's pace is not there right now because his hamstring is not perfect. Rafa has exhibited caution toward Torres' long-term health.

Vicente del Bosque is in a tense spot, no doubt. The Spain manager has his own interests he must serve, but it appears to del Bosque one of them is keeping the Spanish press giggling and happy. The more distractions the better, right? It'll help down the line when things aren't so rosy and the public starts to question why Spain isn't stampeding through the World Cup with 3-0 after 4-1 results.

But I'd like to tell del Bosque that his days are filled with peaches and cream right now because Torres scored the goal that lifted the 8,000-ton gorilla from Spain's back at Euro 2008 – under Luis Aragonés' management, it should be mentioned. No longer is Spain the talented outfit that goes out to Italy in major tournaments. Never again does Spain have to hear from supporters, "How are they going to screw this up? You know they will." Torres played an integral role in ending 44 years of nothing for Spain on the international stage. That counts for something.

And it should count toward more thoughtfulness in how Torres is treated. He's 24 years old, is the toast of strikers in the English league and any conversation about the world's best forward players includes his name among the handful at the top. Torres is in the middle of his club team's greatest chance to win their domestic league since the boy was 6 years old. His sustained health and success on the pitch will ensure riches and the world at his feet for the rest of his life. Torres has a lot riding on that group of muscles that connect his rear end to the back of his knees. Vicente del Bosque treats him like a prop to get a laugh at Benitez' expense.

Torres is never going to decline to play for Spain. No player would, for Spain or any other country (well, except for a few in England and Italy). During a glitzy but utterly pointless February friendly, Vicente del Bosque got lucky Fernando Torres didn't aggravate any of his leg problems – or worse, suffer an errant kick from some "stuck in" England player trying to get Capello's attention and maybe another cap or three down the line. Torres' health is more than just a Liverpool concern. A continually knackered Torres would hurt Spain's chances when the time comes for real international matches that count for something. Let's see David Villa play to this level without the strike partner that scored 33 goals in his first season in England and who has defenders from Belize to Bangkok and Brussels soiling themselves when he gets on the ball.

Maybe del Bosque is cavalier toward Torres' health because he doesn't see the importance of those "real" international matches. Perhaps he's been around Spain's losing ways so long he didn't catch how Fernando Torres lifted the chains of failure from around Spain's neck last summer. Then he should stay as far away from Fernando Torres as possible.


stephen said...

Brilliant stuff, this. Dare I say the best non-Putin related post on Match Pricks to date?

My stomach is already turning at the thought of the Confederations' Cup this summer.

Jim said...

The thought about this post struck me at work toward the end of the night and just kind of percolated from there. Del Bosque's comment about Torres' fitness after the match really set me off.

As always, thank you for reading and elevating our California readership.