LYON, May 17 — Atletico Madrid forward Fernando Torres ended his long wait for a trophy with the club where he has spent the bulk of his career when the Spanish side won the Europa League by beating Olympique de Marseille 3-0 yesterday.
Torres, who ends his second spell with his beloved Atletico at the end of this season when his contract expires, replaced double goalscorer Antoine Griezmann in the 90th minute and lifted the trophy together with captain Gabi.
He had a beaming grin on his face as he walked alone towards the Atletico supporters, holding the trophy aloft with one hand.
Torres has supported Atletico since he was five years old and joined their academy when he was a child, making his first-team debut at the age of 17 in 2001 when they were in Spain’s second division.
He inspired them back to the top flight and became club captain but his rise coincided with a disappointing period for Atletico, who have long lived in the shadow of neighbours Real Madrid.
Torres had not come close to picking up any silverware when he bade farewell to Atletico in a tear-filled news conference in 2007 to announce he had signed for Premier League side Liverpool.
He was still in England when Atletico snapped a 14-year trophy drought by beating Fulham 2-1 to win the 2010 Europa League and was at Chelsea when his former club won five trophies in two years under Diego Simeone, the crowning jewel of which was the 2014 La Liga title.
Torres won the Champions League, FA Cup and Europa League with Chelsea but later admitted what he really craved was to celebrate a triumph with his boyhood club, where he returned in January, 2015 with 40,000 fans flocking to his presentation.
He narrowly missed out on a dream triumph in the 2016 Champions League final against Real Madrid as his side were beaten on penalties by their bitter city rivals.
Torres’s influence at Atletico has declined since that defeat and he has not featured much this campaign, with coach Diego Simeone declaring in February that he did not want him to stay at the club beyond this season.
But the 34-year-old Spaniard at last had something to celebrate with the club he loves so much and who took him back in 2015 when his career at the highest level looked to be over. — Reuters