Fernando Torres was responsable for the second highest attendance of the season at the Vicente Calderon on Sunday despite the fact there was no match to see as 45,000 Atletico Madrid supporters welcomed ‘El Nino’ home.
Torres will be free to make his second debut for his boyhood club, for whom he scored 82 goals in over 200 appearances between 2001 and 2007, against their closest and bitterest rivals when Real Madrid come to the Calderon for the first leg of their Copa del Rey last 16 tie on Wednesday.
“I’m back at home after seven long years. I’d been waiting a long time for this to come true and now my feelings are a bit strange. I still don’t believe this is real,” Torres told the club’s website.
However, the 30-year-old is well aware of the hard work that lies ahead of him if the real reality check is not to be for the thousands that attended his presentation on Sunday still in awe of the baby faced assassin they saw leave for England during tougher times for the club.
As Torres has struggled for form and fitness in recent years at Chelsea and earlier this season in an ill-fated loan spell at AC Milan, Atletico have soared under his former teammate Diego Simeone.
Since the Argentine took charge three years ago, Atletico have only lost three out of 18 two-legged ties on route to winning the Europa League, the Spanish Supercup and the Copa del Rey.
However, one of those defeats came to Real in comprehensive fashion in last season’s Cup semi-final as Los Blancos ran out 5-0 winners on aggregate.
“The club has been able to build a team in which the word team is a strength and that has led to successes,” added Torres.
“For my part, I have found a path which has given me great satisfaction, but something seemed to be missing.
“This reunion closes a circle that started when I was just 10 years old wearing this shirt and now I hope to enjoy it.
“I will always give my all and more for this shirt because it’s what I feel. The fans know it is going to be like that.”
Real boss Carlo Ancelotti acknowledged the lift that Torres’ arrival has given Atletico.
“Without playing Torres has brought enthusiasm to the fans and received their love,” said the Italian, who managed Torres for five months at Chelsea.
“Torres has quality, experience and in this atmosphere, which is his, he will be motivated and desperate to do well.”
The European champions also have reason to be motivated after their 22-game winning run was snapped by defeat at Valencia on Sunday and Ancelotti admitted he is likely to make changes at the Calderon.
“We are focused on a match that will be difficult. We will continue with the same fight and desire as we have done until now.
“There could be changes. There are some players that haven’t recovered yet, but we will play our strongest team available.”
Ancelotti confirmed that Keylor Navas will start all of his side’s Cup games in goal ahead of Iker Casillas and that Gareth Bale will retain his place in the side despite criticism of his performance at Mestalla.