Benitez is a top teacher - Torres

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres has thanked manager Rafael Benitez for bringing him to England and making him a better player.The Spain international scored 33 goals in a brilliant debut campaign after becoming the club's record signing in July 2007.

This season he has struggled with hamstring injuries and has found the net just nine times in sporadic bursts.

But despite the troubles in his difficult second season in England Torres has no regrets about leaving Atletico Madrid.

"English football has been good to me because of its characteristics: it's fast, direct and there are very few stoppages, and that suits my game more than Spanish football," said the 24-year-old.

"My natural qualities - the speed, the power - fit the Premier League.

"I play as a number nine up alongside the centre-backs. If I played there in Spain, maybe it wouldn't suit me as I would hardly see the ball.

"Rafa was looking for a striker with my characteristics - someone quick who could surprise defenders and get behind them - but I had to learn too.

"For a lot of coaches the tactical side of the game doesn't matter that much but for Rafa it is fundamental; he is conscious of the way we set up, the movement, the organisation.

"I've learnt a lot. It's been a real pleasure for me to work with Rafa."

Torres added in FourFourTwo: "At Atletico I played more on instinct, doing my own thing; here I have to learn about movement and positioning, about the team.

"Liverpool's game is based on the team, on strategy. Hitting other teams on the counter-attack with space in front of us suits me perfectly.

"And having Rafa made it easier to grasp the tactical side of things."

Liverpool will need Torres to rediscover his best form if they are to maintain their bid for a first championship since 1990.

The club trail defending champions Manchester United, who have a match in hand, by two points but both have still to meet in what could be a title decider at Old Trafford in March.

Three goals in his last four matches suggest he is starting to rediscover his sharpness but he knows if Liverpool are to be successful in overhauling United they need captain Steven Gerrard to stay fit.

The England midfielder is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury but could make his comeback against Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at the Bernabeu on February 25.

"I hope and wish that he will be back soon. He has no natural replacement," Torres said.

"Every side has a main reference, a home-grown player, someone who lives and breathes the club.

"Other players come and go, but that player remains. Here, our reference player is Gerrard. Liverpool FC is Gerrard plus 10 more. He's irreplaceable."

Talks have been progressing between Benitez and co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett over the manager's new contract.

The American duo are keen for the four-and-a-half-year deal to be signed as soon as possible but have not, contrary to reports, set a deadline of this week for matters to be concluded.

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