With Fernando Torres returning to his first club, UEFA.com's Richard Martin explains why Club Atlético de Madrid are so eager to welcome 'El Niño' back to his "only home".
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Club Atlético de Madrid have announced the return of Fernando Torres, one of their most famous sons, subject to a medical.
The 30-year-old striker has spent the last four months on loan at AC Milan from Chelsea FC and will make that switch permanently in January, but he has already agreed a loan switch back to the Spanish capital, acting on a long-held desire to once again wear the club's red-and-white stripes.
In an emotional farewell in May 2007, before moving to Liverpool FC, Torres said: "I hope this is not goodbye but 'see you later'. I hope I'll be back one day when the club is at the level it deserves to be." With Atlético now Spanish champions and one of the strongest forces in the UEFA Champions League, now seems like a better time than any for Torres to return to the club he first joined as an 11-year-old.
The striker made his first team debut in May 2001 aged 17 and was a beacon of hope for the club, at the time competing in Spain's Segunda División, and in the midst of perhaps the darkest period in their long and illustrious history.
Torres helped Atlético back to the big time and quickly established himself as one of their most important players, scoring 13 goals in his first season in the top flight, and 19 the following term. Despite his youth, Torres had a profound influence in the dressing room and, aged 19, was named captain ahead of of senior figures such as Diego Simeone and Germán 'Mono' Burgos, who are now to be his coaches.
Torres played a total of 244 games and scored 91 goals for Atlético and, although he never won a trophy or played in Europe with the Rojiblancos, 'El Niño' was a talismanic figure for the club by the time he headed off for Anfield. Atlético midfielder Koke explained: "Fernando Torres is an example for all the youngsters here. We are so proud of everything he has achieved and we see ourselves reflected in him."
Torres became an instant hit at Anfield and later won the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and FA Cup with Chelsea, but no club could tug at his heart strings like his first love – he was seen with Atlético scarves and flags while celebrating Spain's UEFA European Championship and FIFA World Cup triumphs.
As he himself explained: "I had to evolve as a player at other clubs, but the Calderón is my only home."