Let’s be clear from the start – when you pick up The Sergio Torres Story, do not expect a coaching manual. Do not imagine the 270 pages that follow will be a decoration of blind-side runs, one-twos, dummies, technical and tactical moves or a detailed breakdown of what goes into suppressing the talents of a far superior opposition midfield three (although that last point does become relevant, as I will go on to describe). In short, the magic and majesty of this interview-led biography isn’t in the intricate elements, but the profound overview of a player who came from nothing and owned nothing, yet driven by sheer stubbornness and an unrelenting belief in himself, found himself running out at Old Trafford and sparring with Wayne Rooney.
The background is simple – a talented but unfulfilled Sergio Torres was, at the age of 22, working in a brick factory in Mar del Plata, Argentina. He was frustrated at having never been at the right game where the right scout was watching. So if South America couldn’t provide him with his break, then maybe Europe would.
What followed was a flight to England, $300 in his pocket and a passage through semi-professional football (beginning at Basingstoke Town) bedsits, shifts working at Boots The Chemists, through into the Football League, six-figure transfer fees, League Cup ties at Stamford Bridge, back-to-back promotions with Crawley Town and with the Sussex club too, the ultimate, an FA Cup fifth round clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford.
It’s the stuff of fantasy football, but it happened, and throughout every turn, every knockback, every promotion, The Sergio Torres Story lends the suggestion that, to anyone reading, something similar may be possible. It’s a book that begins and ends with absolute self-belief, coupled with a fair dose of realism and humility. It’s about sacrifice, temperament and, at times, sheer bloody-mindedness, but at the heart it’s about good things happening to good people… yes, even in the cut-throat world of modern-day football!
Speaking to Torres, and I’ve had the pleasure a few times, is to see someone lovingly trapped in a circle of optimism. The next challenge always has the potential to be better than the last, even if it’s a step down the football ladder, even if in his thirties he cannot quite perform the flicks and tricks, make the darting runs or bend the ball around the wall with quite the same finesse as he did 10 years previously. But for Torres this is all part of the journey, and what a journey.
The moral from The Sergio Torres Story isn’t really about rags to riches, an Argentina brick factory to the away dressing room at the Theatre of Dreams and sparring with an international class midfield, it’s about a philosophy for all, that hard work and belief pays.
“English football was tougher than he thought; very physical and tactical. Sergio Torres was confident in his technical skills, his able right foot and his natural South American style acquired on the pitches of Mar del Plata. He was also sure of his toughness. However, during his first week in England, his team-mates passed him like bullets and he couldn’t hide it. They were like jets, he remarked. Their speed was unreal and running into them was like hitting a wall without wearing a seatbelt.
In Argentina he just waited for the ball to come; here he had to go and get it. At times, the people who doubted the success of his adventure began to be right. It was impossible just to arrive in England with very few resources and so many things against him, and become a professional football player. It was a utopia or just plain stupidity.”
THE SERGIO TORRES STORY, Juan Manuel Lopez.