Alvaro Morata entering the last chance saloon to prove worthy at elite level
Alvaro Morata was supposed to be the striker who would propel Chelsea to further glory. However, the Spaniard has not lived up to his billing. After arriving at Stamford Bridge last summer on the back of netting 20 goals at Real Madrid, he has suffered a disastrous first season in England.
Due to Diego Costa and Antonio Conte's relationship reaching crisis point, the Brazilian-born frontman sulked away to Atletico Madrid. The Chelsea manager identified Morata to fill the striking void. The 25-year-old began brightly, scoring eight times in as many games. Come January, though, his form declined dramatically. It had a negative impact on the Blues' campaign.
Just one year after signing, it appears Morata wants to jump ship. He reportedly met with Juventus' Director two weeks ago, possibly sounding out a potential return to the Serie A champions.
Chelsea's £60 million forward would not be missed. During last season's title triumph, Costa found the net 20 times. Morata followed his predecessor with only 11 goals. It is nowhere near good enough. His time is running out to prove he can lead a top team's attacking line.
Morata is not tactically flexible. As a one-dimensional striker, he only offers the ability to get in behind the opposition's defence and provide aerial strength. His attributes suit a two up-top system. At Juventus, he played alongside Fernando Llorente. Prior to that, Frenchman Karim Benzema supported him at Madrid.
Although Morata's hold up play and ability to link up with teammates are both exemplary, he must add physicality to his game. It was evident on many occasions that he has not yet adapted to the Premier League's intensity.
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Morata's confidence took a hit at Juventus. Gianluigi Buffon admitted he was shocked at how withdrawn the Spaniard became after experiencing a long goal drought. The world's best strikers go through a lull, but they always turn things around. The Chelsea frontman, meanwhile, doesn't respond correctly when things are going wrong. That trait won't appeal to Europe's biggest clubs. A mentally strong talisman will always offer productivity, if not goals.
From 2012-14, Madrid used Morata sparingly. He often came off the bench to make an impact on games. After joining Juventus, he featured more regularly yet still struggled to rack up the numbers, scoring only 15 goals in 63 Serie A appearances.
Teams chasing major trophies need reliable marksmen, ones who guarantee at least 20 goals every season. Morata is talented, but he must improve in many areas before fitting such a profile. At present, failure to influence matches on a regular basis makes him dispensible. His omission from Spain's World Cup squad is proof of that.
Morata's wastefulness in front of goal causes teammates to lose confidence in him. His poor form, scoring only three times so far in 2018, means he is no longer Chelsea's first-choice striker. That the Blues jettisoned their record signing in less than a year proves he has failed to meet expectations.
Will the big clubs all evade Morata this summer, or is any prepared to gamble?