Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata completed an 18-month loan deal to Atletico Madrid this week. The 26-year-old Spanish striker has linked back up with his boyhood club, in a move that could well re-energize his career and give him the spark he needs to return to good form.
It’s no secret that Morata has struggled at Chelsea. He arrived at the club before the 2017-2018 season, just a few months after Chelsea had been crowned as Premier League champions. Huge amounts of pressure were instantly heaped on the young forward as fans expected him to fill the void of the then-exiled striker Diego Costa seamlessly. Costa was Chelsea’s star man, a showman, a maverick and a lethal goalscorer; he possessed talent and personality in abundance. Costa was a figure that all Chelsea fans loved, and many rival supporters loathed, merely because he was such enormous talent and a significant influence on his team.
The gap left by Costa was sizable and Morata struggled to fill the void. The tall Spaniard notched 15 goals in all competitions in his debut season, a respectable return but not one that was acceptable for a Chelsea striker. Costa had scored 22 goals for Chelsea in the 2016/17 title-winning campaign, seven more than his replacement did a year later. Meanwhile, Chelsea suffered without Costa’s movement and work rate; somehow Morata didn’t seem to possess his physicality or prowess.
Pressure only mounted further onto Morata’s shoulders following Chelsea’s poor run during their Premier League campaign and the advancement of media speculation surrounding Costa’s surprising Chelsea exit. Many pundits and journalists began to speculate that there was infighting within the Chelsea camp and that the manager had lost the faith of his players. Though there was never a suggestion that Morata was a troublemaker in the dressing room, fans and pundits encircled and hounded him, demanding that he play better for his manager. In hindsight, it is easy to see how a player could falter in such negative surroundings. Though Morata has scored goals in the last 18 months for Chelsea, he has often looked dejected and low on confidence, understandably so.
However, I find it tough to criticize Morata. After all, he is a player that has worn the white shirt of Real Madrid and starred for Juventus. Morata is a player of exceptional ability who has scored big goals for club and country. He scored three goals for Spain during 2016’s edition of the European Championship, and was a standout player and goal scorer for Juventus in their Champions League final loss to Barcelona in 2015. Morata stands at 6.2 feet tall and is a powerful runner and can both hold the ball and head the ball adeptly. Thus, though Morata has struggled at Chelsea, I am convinced he is still among the world’s best strikers.
Only Morata can showcase his talent, something he can do during his fresh start at Atletico Madrid. The move to the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium sees Morata move back to his boyhood club, his native country and the city where he grew up. He also has the opportunity to move away from many of his doubters in England and forge or grow his reputation in Spain.
Most crucially though, Morata will link up with Diego Costa at Atletico, a player who will aid and teach Morata in action and word. Though Costa’s form has been patchy this year too, Morata will no doubt learn from his elder and will hopefully improve his game.
Whatever happens in the immediate future, Morata has earned a new start away from Chelsea. Hopefully, with time, the aid of home comforts and a sizable boost in game time, Morata will return to his best form and perhaps even star for Chelsea in the future.