Chelsea confirm Fernando Torres will lead attack next season
Fernando Torres was assured yesterday that he has won his battle to be Chelsea's lead striker next season when the club's chief executive said that – despite Torres' post-Champions League final outburst about his recent unhappiness – the £50m man would be at the centre of the Chelsea team.
Ron Gourlay said there was no problem with Torres, who gave an outspoken interview in the aftermath of Saturday's final, saying he would have to consider his future in the light of being left out of the team to start the game against Bayern Munich. He described his omission as the "biggest disappointment" of his life and his recent struggles at Chelsea as the "worst in my career".
Chelsea will not take any action against the player, and it was clear from Gourlay's words that the new manager of the club – whether it is Roberto Di Matteo or someone else – will be expected to accommodate Torres in his team. With Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou both leaving the club, there will be no little pressure on Torres, who has scored 12 goals in one and a half seasons, to fill the void.
Gourlay said: "Fernando is fine. We all get emotional. Everyone wants to play in the Champions League final. I was with Fernando Torres and the boys in the dressing room afterwards and nobody was disappointed, there was no negativity. None at all. In fact, it was much the opposite.
"We've got Fernando Torres. And Fernando Torres is the man that we will go forward with and Fernando Torres will score us the goals. I have no doubt about that. Fernando Torres is a world-class centre-forward and Fernando Torres will score goals for Chelsea. I'm not worried at all. We've just won the Champions League and Fernando Torres played his part in that.
"He was disappointed that he didn't play, and I think that led to the rest. Things are fine. There is no problem. Fernando is a fantastic player and an asset to the football club and we have no problems at all. It's not all about goals. It's not just about the individual scoring goals, his teamwork... he is a very, very important player. And I think you will see Fernando Torres score many goals for Chelsea."
Asked whether that ruled out Chelsea signing another striker, Gourlay said: "We may have two big-name centre-forwards scoring 25-30 goals for us next season and maybe then we will improve on our sixth position in the league." He refused to elaborate on Chelsea's targets, which include Radamel Falcao, Hulk, Eden Hazard and Edinson Cavani. The club would not confirm they have had a £32.4m bid for the Brazilian Lucas Moura turned down by Sao Paulo.
On the question of Di Matteo's future and the appointment of a new manager, Gourlay said that the decision would be made at a board meeting that would take place in the next few weeks and attended by Roman Abramovich. While Abramovich's voice is clearly the most important, Gourlay said it was his belief the Russian billionaire owner would also take soundings from those at the club.
"The delay is just the timeframe of the board of directors and everyone getting together," he said. "It [the decision] is the [responsibility of] the owner and the board of directors. We are able to communicate with the boss [Abramovich] all the time. It's not just a matter of when he is in town. Obviously, he likes to understand what's going on in his football club, he likes to be part of the process, on all sides of the business. So there is a continuous communication there."
As for the clamour from some in the dressing room to give Di Matteo the job, Gourlay said it would not have an impact on the thinking of the club. "We do listen, but at the end of the day it won't force us to rush into a decision. We have to get it right. The players will always have a view, but at the end of the day it will be the owners and the board of directors that will decide the best way forward."
There is a strong belief that Chelsea's next set of accounts will be their best yet with losses dramatically reduced to a point where they are close to breaking even. "It's phenomenal to win this [Champions League], but we're now looking to win more. Some clubs have got three or four stars on their shirts, we have one. The ambition is to keep moving things forward. I said two in five years when I took over the role. That hasn't changed."