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Forward Friday: El Niño, Fernando Torres

by Al 28. October 2011 08:49

Chelsea's Fernando Torres is finally putting his nightmare start at Stamford Bridge behind him. The £50m man only managed one goal in 18 appearances for the Blues last term, but a new season has heralded a new start, and with four goals and three assists in nine games so far, Torres returns from suspension against Arsenal this Saturday with restored confidence and a point to prove.

Torres has looked an altogether different animal this season, prompting manager André Villas-Boas and teammates alike to hail his improved performances and renewed hunger in front of goal. Chelsea boast a formidable glut of striking talent, but if the former Liverpool man can recapture his Anfield form, he will be confident of keeping the likes of Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Daniel Sturridge out of the team.

The Spaniard took the Premier League by storm after his £21m transfer from Atlético Madrid to Rafa Benitez's Liverpool in 2007. Torres emerged as one of Europe's brightest young talents in the Spanish capital, and after making his debut at the age of 17, 'El Niño' became Atlético's youngest ever club captain two years later. By the time he departed the Vicente Calderón, Torres had hit an impressive 82 goals in 214 appearances.

It was at Anfield, however, that he truly blossomed. Allying pace and strength with deadly finishing and intelligent movement, Torres surpassed Ruud van Nistelrooy's record for the highest scoring debut season from a foreign import in the Premier League, with 24 goals. He quickly became a Kop favourite and was named in the PFA Team of the Year in successive seasons. 

It was only after Rafa Benitez's departure from Liverpool in the summer of 2010 that Torres began to consider his future. The side struggled under the stewardship of Roy Hodgson, and when Chelsea came in for him in the 2011 January transfer window, a disillusioned Torres was able to complete an acrimonious transfer away from the club. At £50m, Torres set a new British transfer record and became the fourth most expensive player in history.

After a difficult start at Chelsea, Torres now looks set to become the focal point of the Blues' attack. The signings of fellow Spaniards Juan Mata - with whom Torres has already combined to devastating effect - and former Barcelona youngster Oriel Romeu have helped him settle in London, and his improved morale has sparked a string of encouraging performances.

At international level, Torres has scored 27 goals in 89 appearances for Spain, and has featured in every major tournament since Euro 2004. Among his career highlights is his man of the match performance and winning goal in Spain's 1-0 victory in the Euro 2008 final. Torres is, of course, a World Cup winner too, but his involvement for Spain in South Africa was hindered by a lack of fitness after an injury-disrupted 2009/10 season with Liverpool.

Things are looking up for a resurgent Torres though, and when Chelsea welcome London rivals Arsenal to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, he will be the man charged with breaking the Gunners down. Suddenly, he's looking like someone Chelsea can rely on.

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Forward Friday: Kun, Sergio Aguero

by Al 23. September 2011 07:53

Sergio Aguero has taken to Premier League football without so much as a break in his stride. Arriving at a cost of £38m, a lot was expected of the 23-year-old Argentinian, but even the most optimistic of Manchester City fans could not have predicted quite such an emphatic impact.

The former Atletico Madrid forward has made an incredible start to life at City, scoring eight goals in five games, from which City - genuine title contenders at last - have taken an impressive 13 points. Aguero - nicknamed 'Kun' since childhood - is the brightest of City's glut of gifted forwards, and possesses the kind of superstar quality that the club's billionaire owners have been looking for. His intricate link-up play with David Silva, Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko has been glorious to watch, and his finishing has been lethal.

Aguero is characterised by acceleration and strength. He is stocky and resilient and is a predatory finisher and an intelligent and creative presence in and around the box. The Diego Maradona comparisons that have been attached to numerous talented Argentinian forwards are especially pertinent in Aguero's case. He is, after all, Diego's son-in-law, having married his daughter Giannina. Man City boss Roberto Mancini, however, reckons he's more similar to Brazil legend Romario. On current form he is more than a match for both.

When he made his professional bow at the age of 15 and 35 days for Independiente, Aguero became the youngest player to debut in the Argentinian first division. Fittingly, it was Maradona who previously held the record. Four years later in May 2006, Atletico Madrid broke their transfer record for the young prodigy, paying in excess of £18m to take him to the Spanish capital.

Aguero was Atletico's talisman and one of La Liga's star performers. During five seasons in Spain he was ever-present for Atletico, scoring 102 goals in 234 games, and winning the Europa League in 2010. He featured at three FIFA World Youth Championships for Argentina as a teenager, but his move to Spain allowed him to make the step up to the full international side. He made his debut in September 2006 in a friendly against Brazil played at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium, and he has gone on to score 13 times in 32 games, including goals at the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 Copa America.

He signed a new contract with Atletico in January of this year, but he was outgrowing the club, and announced his desire to leave the Vicente Calderon just four months later. By July Aguero was a Manchester City player, brought in as a replacement for disillusioned countryman Carlos Tevez. Rather than a replacement, however, Aguero looks like an upgrade.

With two goals and an assist in just over 30 minutes, his City debut was a sign of things to come. The Sky Blues were only 1-0 up when Aguero emerged from the bench in the 59th minute of their season-opener against newly-promoted Swansea City at the Etihad Stadium. Although widely tipped to require a period of adaptation to the Premier League, Aguero scored their second nine minutes after coming on, before teeing up David Silva for their third and adding their fourth in stoppage time. Purring with confidence and completely undaunted by his unfamiliar surroundings, the Argentinian has not let up.

The Premier League has a new superstar.

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Icons - always first with the new superstars

by Dan 28. July 2011 07:00
We predicted that Sergio Aguero was going to be one of the biggest names in world football when we did a signing with him way back in April 2010. Icons, as ever, was first, undertaking signings with the best players in the world.

We did Lionel Messi when he was 18 before he'd play 30 times for Barcelona...

...we did Cristiano Ronaldo when he was 20 and had just arrived from Portugal...

..and we did the first signing with Fernando Torres as soon as he arrived in England.

As each of these players has grown into a global superstar they've regularly signed with Icons, partly out of a sense of loyalty to a company that showed faith in them from an early age.

As for Sergio and his arrival in England, probably the best parallel we can draw is with his predecessor at Atletico, Fernando Torres. Before El Nino arrived, he was well-known in Spanish football but not that well-known in world terms. Within a year or so he was biggest Premier League shirt seller in the world. Aguero has the package to do the same: he plays the beautiful game in his own unique way - think Zola, mixed with Dalglish and a hint of Romario - and with his movie-star looks, Japanese nickname and Diego Maradona as a father-in-law, he is going to be a sensation over here.

We have Argentina and Atletico shirts and photos as well as Nike boots which can be framed with a Manchester City background for any fan of the Citizens. Sign up to the icons newsletter too as we're sure to make an announcement of his first UK signing soon.

Icons, signed by the world's best, spotted early by the world's best signed football site.

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Welcome to the icons blog, we'll be regularly posting here about what's going on with our star signings and what new products have arrived

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