After all, he had carried the team on his own for so long, he had played there for 10 years, he had emerged as the hero of Istanbul. The club’s best player of a generation had looked at the Liverpool of the 1970s and 1980s and lived up to those standards. The fans did not accept his desire to leave; they did not understand it, but they could at least explain it.
Fernando Torres, if and when he makes his record move to Chelsea, is unlikely to benefit from the same sort of sympathy. The Spanish striker seems likely to jump ship after 18 months in which he has looked a shadow of the player he once was. He is leaving just when Kenny Dalglish seems to have galvanised the team into some sort of revival. He is turning his back on a popularity he won more quickly than any player in Liverpool’s history. That is why his transfer request hurt so much.
It did not hurt as much as it might have done two years ago, of course. Then, any suggestion that Liverpool would be better off without Torres, that they might be best served by cashing in on the striker, would have been met with derision. This deal, carried out in 2009, the year when he twice destroyed Nemanja Vidic, would have been a massive boost to Chelsea and a major blow to Liverpool.
Now, it is nothing like as clear cut. Yes, Liverpool have been a two-man team for a long time. Yes, you should not sell your best players. But with Torres’s form this season and last, with the injuries he has had, it is a 50-50 decision.
His goal record is still phenomenal, but his general play — even since Kenny arrived, prompting an improvement in his performances — has been distinctly average. Liverpool would get an unbelievable amount of money for him. They have a choice to make. Two years ago, they would not.
That is not to suggest this is anything but a clear statement of intent from Chelsea. Anyone who read this column last week will know where I stand on whether Chelsea are likely to win the Premier League this season, or the Champions League. They are a club in need of a complete overhaul, not the cosmetic addition of a £50 million striker.
But their strategy is very clever: if you get Torres, it sends a message to all of those other players that they might like to sign. It shows that they mean business. Yes, they might have taken their eye off the ball for a couple of years, but they are very much back now. It expresses the same sentiment to the current squad, letting them know that maybe they will not win trophies this year, but next year will be a different story.
The doubts over where Torres will fit in, too, miss the point. There is no question where he would play, should Roman Abramovich get his man. There is only place where he can play: through the middle, on the shoulder of the last defender. He is not going to drop deep and wide.
That job, the task of playing out of position, will fall to Didier Drogba.
It will challenge Carlo Ancelotti to work out where they both play — perhaps as a double spearhead, with the Ivorian just off Torres — and it would be easy to suggest such a shift in system would create problems.
The only problem, though, would be if he did not play well and, more importantly, if he did not score goals. With the first goal he scores — which may yet come against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday — all of those issues would be forgotten.
That is by no means guaranteed, of course, given his displays in the last 18 months. He has cut a dejected figure at Liverpool, his attitude questioned, his body language poor. The excuse at Anfield has always been that is just how he is: even when he was scoring goals for fun, at the peak of his powers, he rarely looked happy.
It will be fascinating to see what happens to that body language, that attitude, should he be granted the move he desires. If Liverpool do, somehow, manage to keep hold of him for the next 24 hours, though, how he reacts will be even more interesting.
It would be the first time in a long time that an elite player did not dictate where he worked. Even Sir Alex Ferguson could not keep hold of Cristiano Ronaldo. If, this time tomorrow, Torres is still a Liverpool player, he will have a lot to do to win back the trust of those fans. His body language, then, would definitely have to change