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Alvaro Morata, The World’s Most Underappreciated Player

Morata is always at the end of criticism, but perhaps judging his whole career on a less-than-impressive stint in the Premier League isn’t the most fair way to judge the Spaniard. However, due to that stint at the Blue’s, the public perception of the Athletico Madrid marksman has lowered considerably, making him one of the most underappreciated strikers in the game at the moment.

Morata, The Early Days

Morata started at Atletico Madrid; however, in 2007, he moved to Getafe’s youth set-up. Then, a year later, Morata made the move to the Real Madrid U-18’s. He then joined the first team, making his debut on December 12th, 2010. It wasn’t until the 2013–14 season at Real Madrid that he started scoring a little more consistently in La Liga. He scored eight and assisted three in twenty-five games; however, he only started three and averaged twenty-five minutes per game too.

These performances caught the eye of Italian giants Juventus, who paid a fee of around €20 million for the Spaniard. Juve gave him first-team opportunities, and he indeed repaid them. In his first season for The Old Lady, he notched fifteen goals and seven assists in all competitions while scoring in the Champions League final loss vs Barcelona in Berlin. The following season, his form continued, and he scored twelve and assisted eleven in all competitions. His time in Italy ended after a Champions League final, two title wins, two Coppa Italia wins, and a Super Cup victory. Successful would be an understatement for his time in Italy.

Morata was wanted again, and his former club, Real Madrid, came calling. Los Blancos paid Juventus €30 million to secure the services of their academy graduate. In the 2016–17 season, Morata played a crucial role in the League and Champions League double, where he scored twenty and assisted six. In the league, he scored fifteen and achieved four assists; however, he only started fourteen of these games and averaged a scoring frequency of a goal every eighty-nine minutes and a goals per game ratio of 0.6. It was this consistency and this form that earned him a move to the Premier League.

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Chelsea: A Failure?

Morata joined Chelsea in the summer of 2017 for a reported €66 million (£56 million) after his excellent form in Italy and Spain. Then Chelsea manager Antonio Conte had some odd words to say about him.

“It means if you have a daughter you’d be open to have this type of person with your daughter, to marry your daughter. A really good guy, a polite person. But my daughter is young, don’t touch my daughter!”

Antonio Conte on Alvaro Morata

Conte was a big fan of the forward,, and Morata was also a fan of Conte, admitting the Italian was a massive factor in the decision to move to Stamford Bridge. During his time in London,, Morata was constantly clowned for his misses; however, the praise was never as loud as the disrespect. In the 2017/18 Premier League season, Morata scored eleven and assisted six in thirty-one appearances and seven off the bench. That return is decent for a player in his first season in England, especially in a struggling Chelsea side. He also won an FA Cup, scoring in both the quarter-final and the semi-final.

During the 2018–19 season, Morata played under Maurizio Sarri, who was newly appointed boss after the departure of Antonio Conte. Morata only started eleven times in the league, scoring five under the new gaffer. It was apparent that Morata wasn’t the preferred choice, as he was loaned out midway through the season to the other side of Madrid, Atletico Madrid, scoring six and assisting one in 13 starts.

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Atletico Madrid

Alvaro returned to the club where he played at the youth level on loan. This season, Atleti finished third, seventeen points behind their local rival, Real Madrid. On a personal level, it was yet another season of consistency for the Spanish forward, where he contributed twelve goals and two assists in twenty-five starts. This, yet again for Morata, was a decent season where Atleti never performed to the standards they had previously. This was a season for Morata just to get back playing football consistently under a manager and fans that appreciate him for what he does.

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Juventus Part Two

Morata joined Juventus again on loan in the summer of 2020 after Atletico Madrid bought him permanently on July 1st for a fee of around €35 million, and then he left on loan to the Old Lady just eighty-three days later. This was a summer where Juventus hired Andrea Pirlo as their coach, and having played with him, Pirlo wanted Morata to help and form a trio with a forward line of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, and Morata himself. In this season, Juventus finished fourth, thirteen points behind leaders Inter Milan, and this was a huge failure for the Italian giants after they had just won nine consecutive league titles. However, it wasn’t largely down to Pirlo; personally, I feel the recruitment from the side and the inability to replace the ever-ageing squad harmed them massively in the long run and are still harming them now.

On a personal level, Morata contributed to eleven goals and nine assists in only twenty-three starts, which is an awe-inspiring return considering he was alongside one of the greatest of all time, Cristiano Ronaldo. He averaged a goal-per-game ratio of 0.3 and offered a lot for the club that stuttered and stalled all season.

Allegri Reunion

Allegri had returned to Juventus after the harsh firing of Juventus legend Andrea Pirlo after an unsuccessful season. Morata had been reunited with the manager who signed him for Juventus in 2014 and got arguably the best out of him from any manager thus far. This reunion was less successful on a personal level for Morata, and in his second season on loan at the club, he contributed nine goals and seven assists.

For Juventus as a club, this was deemed another season of ‘failure’ as they failed to win the league, finishing fourth to Pioli’s AC-Milan and fourteen points from the top! This failure yet again can be pushed to the board and the directors with the lacklustre decision-making that has led to Juventus not winning a title since 2020, which for a club of Juventus’ stature and size is woeful.

Atleti, Again

Morata had finished his loan after two mediocre seasons in Italy and returned to an Atleti side that had just won the league in the 2020/21 season and then the season later finished 3rd, which for the past ten years has been their spot bar the league win in 2014. Morata, in the 22/23 season, started for most of the season alongside seasoned Frenchman Antoine Griezmann in the Simeone system. Morata amassed thirteen goals and two assists, while his strike counterpart achieved fifteen goals and sixteen assists. Griezmann often dropped deep into centre-mid roles, leaving Morata isolated up top. For Morata, he gained twenty-three starts, so a contribution of fifteen g/a in twenty-three league starts doesn’t look so bad, especially when he averaged fifty-three minutes per game.

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Currently in the 23/24 season, Morata has already beaten his previous season total, as he has nineteen goals and three assists in all competitions with twenty-eight starts so far. This so far is a success for Morata, with more games still to play and no doubt more games to improve his record and still keep himself at the top level.

Conclusion

This season has shown why Morata is severely underrated, as at 31 years old, he is still consistently hitting 15+ goal seasons, and just because of his big-money move in the Premier League, that was a failure, but it wasn’t that bad in comparison to recent signings that have been made for double the money. Alvaro Morata, for me, will always go down as a player whose true attributes weren’t appreciated and whose contributions weren’t either. For me, he will be a player I will look back on fondly, especially in his early Juventus years, which brought me and my dad the joy of reaching a UCL final and the elation of slotting the ball in the back of the net in Berlin, although the result never came our way against a truly unbelievable Barcelona side.

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