Alvaro Morata’s Spain World Cup snub: Was leaving Real Madrid for Chelsea a mistake?
When Julen Lopetegui released his 23-man shortlist for Spain's World Cup squad, Alvaro Morata was a glaring omission. The Chelsea forward had a tumultuous season in England, battling form and injury. Consequently, manager Antonio Conte left him on the bench for several important matches. Morata's disappointment was evident in his body language when lifted from matches he did start. He appeared to take it well, wishing the team best of luck shortly after the list was announced. That doesn’t change the fact he would have preferred to be on the plane to Russia.
But who can blame the Lopetegui for his decision? He has a wealth of choice and would have left out important names in any event. Among others, Morata's Chelsea team-mates Cesc Fabregas, Pedro Rodriguez and Marcos Alonso were all dropped. Manchester United’s Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and Atletico Madrid’s Juanfran also didn't make the cut. Success for Valencia’s Rodrigo, Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas and the recently in-form Diego Costa put Morata in a disadvantaged position.
The question is whether Morata’s problems began when he left Real Madrid for Chelsea, last season? The former Juventus striker left the Spanish giants for Stamford Bridge after helping the merengues to a treble. The Madrid-born forward would have loved to stay at the Spanish capital, but he rarely started a match. In and out of the team, Zinedine Zidane’s rotational policy did offer the playing time Morata felt he deserved.
It came as no surprise when he moved to Chelsea in a club-record £60 million deal. His first competitive game for the Blues delivered bad omens. Chelsea lost the Community Shield to Arsenal. A 2-3 loss to Burnley in his first Premier League start alos pointed to a disappointing season. The consequences have been far-reaching. Conte is on the brink of leaving the club. Recently sacked Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri waits in the wings.
While he must have suspected he would be left out of the Spain squad, it had to be a shock nevertheless. He knew he was in poor form. Although he has had a few injuries, the season was a poor one for the entire team. It's hardly surprising that only Cesar Azpilicueta made La Furia from Chelsea's five-man Spanish contingent. Even though the club ended the season by winning the FA Cup, the damage had already been done.
The campaign also included Real Madrid's poor showing in La Liga. Zidane was blamed for selling experienced players while relying on unproven youngsters to provide depth. Along with Morata, Pepe, James Rodriguez, Fabio Coentrao, Mariano Diaz, and Danilo also left the club.
In the season's first half, Real's attack suffered and the defence wasn't able to compensate. Morata could have made a difference when Karim Benzema failed to deliver. It's possible that Morata had stayed in Madrid, he would be in the Spanish squad heading to Russia. Playing for the Spanish giants in the Champions League final would have lifted him above Rodrigo and Aspas. Lucas Vazquez had less impact this term in more minutes than Morata had in 2016/17. He is in Lopetegui's squad.
Looking at the numbers and events at both clubs, it's easy to believe leaving Real Madrid was a mistake for Alvaro Morata.