Fernando Torres, a career whose legacy mirrors his childhood hero’s

Fernando Torres was an integral part of Spain’s golden generation winning the World Cup and two Euros for Spain, scoring 38 goals from 110 appearances. (File Photo)

“I started playing football because of this, and because my brother forced me, and I loved the cartoon. I wanted to be Oliver, because he played out on the field,” Fernando Torres told Daily Mail in a 2012 interview.

The Oliver he was referring to is from Oliver y Benji, the Spanish version of Yoichi Takahashi’s iconic Japanese manga series, Captain Tsubasa, created in 1981. It dealt with two young players starting off as youth team players, playing their way into the national team and winning the World Cup.

In the interview, Torres spoke about how from a very tender age, he was taken up by the dream of winning the World Cup and moving to big European clubs. He started his footballing career as a goalkeeper in local Madrid side, Parque 84. But it was the cartoon adaptation of Takahashi’s manga series that inspired him to be a striker.

After going through the ranks of local youth sides, Torres was offered a contract to join the Atletico Madrid academy in 1995. Six years later, he made his first team debut against CD Leganés as a 17-year-old lanky forward, and never looked back. The Vicente Calderón became his home, and he powered his boyhood club from the obscurity of Segunda División to a La Liga mainstay, captaining the side after turning just 19.