There’s an Italian saying, great loves never go away, they just go take the long way round and meet up again. Alvaro Morata has always been utterly in love with Juventus. He found his confidence here, played his best football in the Bianconeri jersey, met and married his wife Alice. Even though he played for both clubs in the city of his birth, it’s Turin he considers to be home.
Some players are ruthless, goal-getting machines who focus only on finding the back of the net, no matter who they have to trample over to get there. Morata is definitely not that kind of striker, which would explain his rather poor career statistics and why the football betting odds on him being Capocannoniere are going to be outlandish. He’s more of a facilitator, someone who works within any tactical system to create spaces, hold up the ball and help his teammates relish the glory. In that sense, he is the ideal partner for Cristiano Ronaldo, just as he was for Carlos Tevez.
Luis Suarez would’ve been two massive egos in one team, inadvisable, even if he did resist the urge to take another chunk out of Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder. Edin Dzeko is so accustomed to shouldering the burden of the entire Roma attack that he’d have considered Juve a blessed relief, or perhaps after a while felt a little out of the loop.
When Juve picked Morata, many pundits pointed out he’d be ‘happy to sit on the bench and not make a fuss’ when Pirlo changed tactics or Paulo Dybala returned to the line-up. The Spaniard turns 28 next month, he should be at the height of his personal ambition, yet he shuns the spotlight and wants nothing more than to feel comforted rather than challenged.
Not everyone is the same, we all have our personalities and they inevitably bleed into our work. Footballers are no different. Ronaldo has the career statistics he does because he is so driven and propels others along with him. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the same, you don’t reach a few weeks before your 39th birthday and continue to make the difference in matches at the top level if you’re not intensely passionate. Morata is more of a let yourself be the leaf carried along by the stream kind of man. That is reflected in his playing style too.
It remains frankly shocking to me that Diego Simeone ever thought Morata would suit the Atletico Madrid approach in any way, shape or form. Cholo wants killers, Alvaro is that henchman who ends up turning on the bad guy and helping the hero escape.
Max Allegri praised Morata as “the only striker in the world right now who can fit into any tactical system, any role, can be a partner to any teammate in the forward line. Wherever you put him, he does the job and makes those around him play better.” One of the biggest problems in the Spaniard’s career has been the fact he is treated like a centre-forward when he doesn’t particularly play like one. He’s tall, good in the air, he ought to be the focal point of the attack, but that’s not where he wants to be. Real Madrid, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, they all tried to make him into someone he’s not. Juve accept Alvaro as he is, the fans love him, he won’t shoulder the massive pressure of a €60m price-tag or be considered the new Karim Benzema.
Andrea Pirlo knows his style perfectly well, having been his teammate in 2014-15. So much of Pirlo’s approach has been about taking Juventus back to that time, the transition between Antonio Conte and Allegri, recapturing that identity. Andrea Agnelli tried to go in a completely different direction under Maurizio Sarri, but the squad and others within the club hierarchy never fully embraced that vision. Like Morata, they wanted to feel at home in Turin, and now they have that.