at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Monaco – Chelsea striker Fernando Torres, who faces his boyhood team Atletico Madrid in the European Super Cup on Friday, says he is a stronger person and a better footballer after all his problems at the London club.
The Spanish international became the most expensive player in English football when he left Liverpool for a fee of £50 million in January 2011 but after suffering long spells without a goal he found himself on the bench.
“The transition from Liverpool to Chelsea was harder than I thought it was going to be but it has made me a stronger person and a better player,” Torres told a news conference on Thursday.
“I am a stronger person because after sitting on the bench, once for eight matches in a row, I began to understand my teammates better.
“It took me back to my past when I was 17 or 18 at Atletico and had to fight every day for my place in the team. I don't want to go back to that,” added Torres.
“I am a better player now than I was when I was at Liverpool, I can play outside the box better, I can link up better. It was a difficult season last season but I would not change anything – it helped me a lot.”
Last season Torres and Spain and Chelsea teammate Juan Mata joined a select band of players who have won the European Cup and European Championship in the same campaign.
“This match could not be more special for me,” Torres said of Friday's game between the European champions and the winners of the Europa League.
“I spent 12 years at Atletico, I was captain there and I am one of them. I am an Atletico fan, I am a supporter. But, on Friday, all I want to do is win this cup for Chelsea.
“It will be strange for me because for 90 minutes I will not be an Atletico fan but I will be again after the match is over,” he smiled.
Chelsea, who won the first Super Cup to be staged in Monaco in 1998, are the favourites to win the last one at the Stade Louis II before the fixture starts to move around to different European venues starting in Prague next year.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone said: “We are competitive and the game before this final (a 4-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on Monday) gave us a good feeling and a positive attitude.
“But Chelsea are the favourites with a big budget. They've won the Champions League and on paper they are better. We want to be competitive but during the game anything can happen.”
Simeone refused to compare Torres, who notched 82 goals in 214 matches for Atletico, and his team's high-scoring striker Falcao.
“I'm not going to make comparisons between them. I'll talk about our side and our players - we have a great squad and Falcao is a great player and is still improving.
“I'm convinced if he maintains his growth we can enjoy him for a long time to come.” – Reuters