April 4, 2010
There are 25 minutes to play and Liverpool are chasing a winning goal. Their push for Champions League qualification is on the rocks at St Andrew’s. A Steven Gerrard goal has been cancelled out by Birmingham City defender Liam Ridgewell. Rafa Benitez knows something has to give if the Reds are to find that elusive winning goal. David N’Gog strips out of his tracksuit and is ready to enter the fray. The fourth official’s board is raised. Who will make way for the unconvincing Frenchman?
His number, 24, flashes on the screen, next to it the number nine. Surely a mistake? No one in the ground is expecting it, least of all Liverpool’s No. 9, Fernando Torres. The Spaniard stops in his tracks and looks back alarmingly toward the technical area. He slowly jogs off the field, a non-plussed expression etched across his face and a shrug of the shoulders. Behind him Steven Gerrard looks on in disbelief, before turning away and scratching his head.
An iconic moment in the final weeks of Rafa Benitez’s tenure at Anfield, the reaction from Gerrard a sinister portrayal of his loss of trust and belief in the manager, who had become embattled by perceived politicking behind the scenes. Torres would not return to the field in the Premier League that season, and with Benitez’s departure in the summer he and Gerrard never again played in tandem up front. Neither have been the same since.