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Chelsea suffered a lot of setbacks in their chase for a new striker. Following the Antonio Conte – Diego Costa text message fiasco, the club were in the market for a new centre-forward, but weren’t able to get their hands on one.
The Blues’ primary target, Romelu Lukaku, was swooped from under their noses by rivals Manchester United from Everton for a £75million fee, leaving the fans extremely frustrated. Since then, the Premier League champions seemed to have turned their attentions towards other options – namely Andrea Belotti of Torino, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Borussia Dortmund and Alvaro Morata of Real Madrid. They were even linked with a move for Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero for a short while (Sky Sports).
Things didn’t progress as planned on those fronts. Belotti, who comes with a release clause of €100million, has had just one good season and is unproven on the continental stages, and Aubameyang has been taken off the market by Dortmund, who issued a statement earlier this week, claiming that they will not entertain any offers for the star striker.
This left Chelsea in somewhat of a precarious position, as they were left searching for a world-class option to lead the line, come next season. But, as the club confirmed on Wednesday, they have reached an agreement with Real Madrid for the transfer of Alvaro Morata and the move will soon be completed, subject to a medical. The Spaniard is reportedly set to cost £60million (BBC Sport).
The 24-year old, a Madrid academy graduate, first burst onto the scenes back in 2013 and was soon signed by Antonio Conte at Juventus in the summer of 2014, but the two could not get the opportunity to work together as the manager left the club to take up the job at the Italy national team.
Morata spent two years in Turin, scoring 27 goals and winning two Serie A titles and 2 Coppa Italia titles before Madrid decided to invoke the buy-back clause and take him back to the Santiago Bernabeu last summer.
Having returned to his boyhood club, Morata did not find game time easy to come by, as manager Zinedine Zidane continued to pursue with Karim Benzema as his preferred option at the top, in spite of Morata’s impressive displays. At the end of the term, the Spanish international finished the season with 20 goals and 6 assists from 43 games in all competitions – only 19 of which were starts.
An impressive return, isn’t it? He even managed to outscore Benzema and finished the season as the second highest goal-getter for the Spanish champions only behind the talismanic Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Spanish international certainly knows where the goal is. Last season, Morata’s conversion rate of 27% (15 goals from 55 shots) was the highest for any striker in the La Liga to have scored 10 goals or more. There will always be some who will say that he came and bagged easy goals against weak opponents, but the fact that Morata’s goals earned 13 points for Madrid in the La Liga, with only Ronaldo earning more (14) should help erase that notion.
His strike-rate of scoring a goal every 88.7 minutes in the Spanish top division was only bettered by Barcelona’s Leo Messi. That is a prolific scoring record. And if he manages to reproduce a similar output with much more playing time at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea will have gotten their hands on a top-class striker.
Morata comes in with a wealth of Champions League experience too, both with Juventus and Real Madrid and has even won a lot of trophies already – which is something that Chelsea’s primary target Romelu Lukaku cannot boast of. And he has shown the mental ability and the toughness to come out on top in the high-pressure games – Morata scored in both the semi-finals in the UEFA Champions League 2014/15, for Juve against his former club Madrid, and also scored the solitary strike for the Old Lady in the 3-1 final loss to Barcelona.
An extremely intelligent operator, he may not possess the blistering pace or the brute power, but makes up for it with his movement, and top notch link-up play with the rest of his attacking partners in the final third. The 24-year old can hold his own against physical defenders and has shown great adaptability in his career so far, to fit into any role his managers have asked him to perform in.
He is a good dribbler of the ball, is a lethal finisher and a strong header of the ball as well – all attributes that are needed, to be a hit in Conte’s scheme of things. He is someone who will run the channels hard, will drift out wide and stretch defences. Standing close to 6’3”, he has the physical attributes to keep the defenders occupied as well.
At 24, he is at the age where he is ready to take up the role of the main man of a team – something that he would never have achieved at Madrid. And Conte recognises that very well. With the trust and the backing of the manager, sky is the limit for Morata at Chelsea.