Álvaro Morata baffles me. He’s good on so many fronts, yet I’m concerned that he will never be great.
Born in Madrid on the 23rd October 1992, the Spanish international joined Real Madrid’s academy at the age of fifteen following stints at Atlético Madrid and Getafe. The attacking player represented Spain on a number of occasions at youth level, and debuted for Real Madrid Castilla in August of 2010. It took just four months for his efforts to be recognised by a certain José Mourinho, who handed him his debut for the first team on the 12th December 2010. For the next three seasons, Morata was a key figure in Real’s Castilla side, averaging almost a goal every other game in nearly 100 appearances.
His opportunities with the first team were limited, though successes in this period include being crowned a La Liga and Spanish Cup champion, as well as a European U/21 champion with the Spanish National Team. Morata scored his first goal for the Real Madrid first team on the 11th November 2012, aged 20, and debuted in the UEFA Champions League almost a month later. Fifteen months later he scored his first goal in this competition, scoring his club’s third goal in a 3-1 victory over Schalke, having established himself as a regular around the first team squad under Carlo Ancelotti. Real Madrid went on to win the Spanish Cup and UEFA Champions League in their most successful season in recent years.
Having scored 10 goals in 37 appearances for Real Madrid, Morata signed for Italian giants Juventus for a reported €20m on the 18th July 2014, with Real Madrid holding an option to buy-back the player within two seasons for €30m. The Spaniard was an instant hit in Italy, becoming a key player as Juventus went on to win the Serie A, the TIM Cup and were ultimately defeated in the UEFA Champions League final by a spectacular Barcelona side; en-route to which Morata played a peripheral role in eliminating his former side, Real Madrid, in the semi-finals of the competition. The season also saw him net his first goal for his National Team, and Europe went crazy about this in-form striker – a role he has grown more accustomed to in Italy having spent many hours on the left wing in Madrid. He ended the season with 15 goals in 46 matches for Juventus in all competitions.
“Morata is not good enough to play for Madrid.” Florentino Pérez
Morata’s returns in the 2015/16 season have not been as successful as his first season. He racked up 11 goals in 44 games, and found himself appearing off the bench more frequently than before, with his club having signed Simone Zaza, Mario Mandžukić and Paulo Dybala to bolster their attacking options. At the end of the season, the player himself confirmed that a departure from Juventus remained “a real possibility”, fuelling interest from the likes of Arsenal and, of course, option-holders Real Madrid, despite Massimo Allegri, the Juventus boss, insisting that he will do his best to retain him. After all, Morata signed a new four-year contract with Juventus just six months ago, tying him to the club until the summer of 2020.
But what have we learnt about Álvaro Morata over the last few seasons?
- He’s quick, but not that quick. Morata is pretty heavy off-the-mark, though once he gets going he develops a nice bit of pace.
- He’s strong, but not really your ‘power-house’. He will fend off players and hold up the ball regularly, but is by no means a target man and will struggle against the world’s top centre-backs. Thankfully for him, three of the best ones are his own team-mates!
- He will take a player on… occasionally. He doesn’t possess the agility or the change of speed to be used as a tricky winger, but his dribbling skills are deadly when he’s in one vs one situations with goal in sight.
- He can finish off actions, but he will also miss sitters. His finishing is quite good, but certainly not the best. On his off-days, it’s actually very poor. His horrible misses for Real Madrid against Schalke and Real Sociedad spring to mind, while his attempts for Juventus vs Cesena a year ago left a lot to be desired. The numbers aren’t overly impressive.
- He is willing to play his team-mates in, but often lacks the creativity to play defence-breaking passes. His vision and awareness are reasonable. He is not a flair player, though. His passing ability can be considered to be good.
- He works hard with and without the ball. No arguments here. Good attitude.
- At 1.87m, he’s tall and can win the ball with his head, but is still not a world beater in this regard.
- His right foot is good; his left foot isn’t bad.
When Morata signed for Juventus nearly two years ago I was sceptical due to the large transfer fee involved, particularly considering that he had played so few games in four seasons at Real Madrid. Today, I’ve been converted. Don’t get me wrong – I maintain that Morata is not, and in my opinion will never be, a world beater. He’s… good!
But in today’s inflated market, and with Real Madrid suffering so badly in numbers up front (ironically, Fulham have four times the number of options that Real Madrid have in this department…), €30m may represent a pretty neat bit of business from the Merengues. After all, with the two most expensive players ever flanking their striker, it’s fair to say that Real Madrid don’t necessarily need the ‘best’ player in this role to be successful. Being a Madrid local, understanding the culture, knowing the language and the club itself, being close to home, and being a more mature and composed player are just some of the factors that should convince Real Madrid to sign today’s Morata.
As for anyone else…
Dear European football clubs: if you’re looking for an all-round striker who is good in so many areas of play, Morata is your man. If you have a necessity for specific attributes required to improve your side, you may be better off looking at alternatives.
Check out this video, compiled by YouTube’s Giovadieci Football Channel, of Morata ripping the Serie A apart across his spell in Italy:
What do you think? Comment below.