“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power”. This is a quote Alvaro Morata would be able to relate to, only the double interpretation of his career it offers up would trouble him. A player with height, speed, power, technique and ultimately supreme ability, there is a question as to why he is seen to have underachieved. How can this be when he has played for Real Madrid, Juventus, Chelsea and now Atletico Madrid?
When Morata saw his current team draw The Old Lady in the Champions League, it must have given him a nostalgic kick as well as regret. Despite spending a career playing for some of Europe’s Elite clubs, he has often been resigned to the bench. His time at Juventus could arguably be where he felt the most valued, a strange scenario for a man who is still only 26 years of age. He has scored 101 goals in 258 games, won two La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey, two Champions Leagues, a UEFA Super Cup and a FIFA Club World Cup and that was just at Madrid. Add two Serie A titles, a Supercoppa Italiana and two Coppa Italia’s with Juventus and an FA Cup at Chelsea round out his treasure trove, yet still the jury is out.
Maurizio Sarri called Morata “mentally fragile”, this was something backed up in another report from a former team-mate. Gigi Buffon had once discovered the striker crying after a training session and said that he had to stop looking for excuses. The irony is that the Spaniard has the perfect physique and conditioning to be a top player, but it seems that he does not possess the mental conditioning to go with it. Morata has said in interviews before that he is often looking for someone to blame when he has a bad day, or he has a bad performance, and this seems to be a constant irritant to many of his Coaches, from Jose Mourinho to Antonio Conte.
Juventus was perhaps one of his better times, as he performed well in the Champions League in 2014-15 and for a time displaced his friend Fernando Llorente from the first XI. His second season didn’t see him fulfil his promise and rumours were again circling that this man perhaps was somewhat immature, with too many sudden ups and downs.
It was therefore so surprise that he returned to Real Madrid, before being moved on to Chelsea for an incredible €80m. It seemed that everyone could see his potential on the pitch, so Coaches seemed to see him as a Rubik’s Cube that, if they could solve it, would be the answer to all their problems. The mistake, however, was that the puzzle is in Morata’s head and not, as they had assumed, on the field.
Whilst at Chelsea, he was asked if he could score 20 goals a season. He replied that he “would like to, but it’s not the most important thing.” For many players, this might seem as if they were looking to put the team first, but Morata was already preparing himself for underachievement.
The monumental frustration with this is that the 26-year-old is constantly seen to be underperforming, but his failures have reaped more success in his short playing career than many could expect in a lifetime. His ability could see him doing even more, so imagine if he had led the line for Real Madrid playing at his absolute maximum, the results would’ve been devastating on opposition defenders.
The irony with Morata is that he has been trusted by so many Coaches, always given a position of power to push home his own destiny, but instead found himself in adversity due to his fragile mental state. These are reports from those around him, not from assumption.
Even so, he has still many more years in him and at the rate he is going, many more trophies to win. Not every player can be fiercely driven or fearless, each have their own worries, stresses and self-doubt, it just depends to what level. One thing can perhaps make Morata sleep well at night, as many years from now someone will look back at his achievements and reassess everything about his career, he will probably go from being a frustrating player to an under-rated legend.