The golden boy

Torres was outstanding, finishing top-scorer, as Spain won the European Under-16 Championship in 2001. He also became Atletico's youngest-ever player when he made his first-team debut against Leganes in May that year, writes Andy Hampson.

One of the most highly-rated young forwards in the world, Fernando Torres has made a huge impact at Atletico Madrid, Spain, of whom he is already captain from a young age. He has been linked with some of Europe's biggest clubs, including Manchester United and AC Milan.

Torres acquired the nickname `El Nino de Oro' — the golden boy — after breaking into Atletico's first team at 17.

He grew up in the Fuenlabrada area near Spain's capital, traditionally Real Madrid territory, but it was Atletico who spotted him. He played junior football for them from the age of 11 and rose through their ranks, earning international recognition at youth level along the way.

Atletico soon realised they had a star on their hands and he was quickly tied to a professional contract.

Torres was outstanding, finishing top-scorer, as Spain won the European Under-16 Championship in 2001. He also became Atletico's youngest-ever player when he made his first-team debut against Leganes in May that year. He netted his first senior goal against Albacete a week later.

Atletico narrowly missed out on promotion to Spain's Primera Liga that season but they were to put that right a year later and Torres' star continued to rise as he was top-scorer and player of the tournament as Spain won the European Under-19 championship in July 2002. He even netted the decisive goal against Germany in the final.

Atletico were back in the top division in Spain in 2002-03 and Torres had no problem adjusting to the higher level as he scored 13 goals.

He was to do better the following season as he hit 20 in the league and not only made his full Spain debut but also ended the campaign going to Euro 2004.

He scored 16 goals in 2004-05 and the clamour for his services began. Chelsea and Manchester United were reportedly involved in a heated battle to sign him but he resisted overtures and stayed in Madrid.

Tottenham and Newcastle have since expressed interest but despite financial difficulties, Atletico insist they will not part with him for less than their reported GBP25 million valuation.

He netted 13 in the league last season and went on to feature in the World Cup in Germany, in which he scored three goals.

Torres was for a long time dating his childhood sweetheart Olalla, whom he met at the age of eight when his parents moved to the same street as her family in Galicia. They were engaged to be married but it was recently rumoured that they have split up. If true, he is unlikely to be short of potential suitors. Torres is hugely popular in Spain and there are several fan websites dedicated to him.

Torres is the youngest of three children to parents Jose and Flor. His sister is Mari Paz and his brother Israel.

Torres' only serious injury to date occurred just before his career took off. He cracked his shinbone in 2000 and needed an operation to put it right. In the 2000-01 season he could not begin until December and at first he found it a struggle. Things started to pick up when he played in a tournament with Spain Under-16s in the Algarve and he improved to such an extent that he ended the season in the Atletico first team.

Torres loves fast cars, with a black BMW Compact 320 and a Porsche Carrera among his past purchases. The BMW 320 is a classy, stylish car that has had many re-launches over the course of its 32-year lifespan and currently retails at around GBP23,000. The Compact is a more sleek, sporty edition. The Porsche Carrera is one of the most desired supercars ever produced. They retail at GBP315,000.

FACTFILE

Name: Fernando Torres Position: Striker Club: Atletico Madrid DOB: 20/03/1984 Spain Caps: 39 Spain Goals: 14 Spain debut: v Portugal,September 2003

* * * Moment to remember

Torres recalls his first-team debut against Leganes as the greatest moment of his career, but in terms of announcing himself on the international stage, his goal against Ukraine in the World Cup was pretty special. Torres wrapped up a sublime team move and a superb 4-0 win in Leipzig when he lashed home a volley from the edge the area nine minutes from time.

Moment to forget

Torres had only been in the first team a few months but the disappointment he suffered when Atletico failed to win promotion in 2001 was acute. Atletico went into their final game at Getafe knowing their fate was out of their hands. They managed to pull off a 1-0 win but victories elsewhere for Tenerife and Betis saw them lose out on goal difference.

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