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This summer has shown Spain’s dominance on the international stage has no sign of ending just yet as their under-21s strolled to victory in the European Championships out in Israel. One of the stand-out stars was the top-scoring Alvaro Morata who struck four goals and made UEFA’s team of the tournament.
Finally gaining recognition as one of the most talented young centre-forwards in Europe, we have a look at Real Madrid’s 20 year old striker.
Morata’s footballing journey started on the other side of Madrid with Athletico back in 2005, he spent two years there before moving to Getafe’s youth system. He spent a year there before moving to Real Madrid where he finished his footballing education with the C team where he won two youth cups and scored 34 goals, earning him a promotion to the B team in July 2010. Madrid coach Jose Mourinho was quick to notice his potential, inviting him n a pre-season tour of America in his first month.
In his first year with the Castilla, Real Madrid’s reserve side, Morata hit 15 goals in 28 matches as well as emerging onto the fringes of the senior squad, making a handful of substitute appearances under Mourinho. Despite his numerous cameos, Morata was ignored by Mourinho when filling the void left behind by Gonzalo Higuain’s injury in January 2011.
The Portuguese said “Morata is not prepared to be in the starting line-up of Real Madrid” and he felt that “he needs to grow up and finish his formation with Castilla”.
Morata has seemed to have yielded that advice, going on to hit 17 goals in 37 games in the the following season, before breaking into the Real Madrid full-team the year after. Still in potent form for the Castilla, scoring 12 goals in 18 matches, Mourinho sent him on after 83 minutes in an away fixture against Levante and he duly scored a winner, leading for calls for the coach to utilise the talented youngster on a more regular basis.
Despite initial reluctance from a typically stubborn Mourinho, Morata has finished the season with a total of 12 appearances for Madrid, scoring his first goal in a 2-0 win over Rayo Vallecano. He was also handed a start in March’s El Clasico with Barcelona, where he provided the assist for Karim Benzema’s strike.
His goals were vital to Spain’s triumph in the under-21 European Championship, the second trophy he has won during his time with Spain’s youth system after he won the under-19 European Championship back in 2011, where he also finished with the Golden Boot.
Style, Strengths and Weaknesses
Not fitting the stereotypical Spanish mould of a small, physically slight attacker, Morata is 6ft 2 inches tall and offers an impressive presence in the air, winning most of his aerial duels and also being a deadly target for crosses.
He doesn’t stay true to the old-fashioned cumbersome centre-forward that usually correlates with tall players either, possessing excellent mobility and fine movement when leading the line, dragging defenders around to create space for other players to run into, a trait that fits perfectly into the ultra-fluid Spanish system. Such a style has seen him draw comparisons with Fernando Morientes.
Mostly comfortable in drifting out to the left-hand side of the attack, Morata can use gifted technical skill to glide last defenders to create chances for others, or even to get shots away with his lethal finishing. He has shown his ability to clinically dispatch chances from crosses or even after creating them himself with direct runs into the box with the ball.
With his gifted control and technical skill however, Morata needs to work on bringing others into play as sometimes he struggles to link with other attacking players. Sme may level the accusation that Morata is sometimes too selfish in the final third, preferring to go for goal himself when a pass is the better option, though that will be ironed out as he matures and further progresses with more first-team football.
Morata is also known for his high work-rate which you’d probably expect from a Spanish player, hailing from a country ingrained in the art of intense pressing. Constantly hassling and harrying defenders off the ball, he is a huge asset to a team that likes to defend from the front.
Given Real Madrid’s poor track record with emerging talent, Iker Casillas remains the only player to progress into a regular first-team Madrid player for twelve years, there has been intensified interest in Morata from the likes of Liverpool, Napoli, Sevilla and Manchester United.
Madrid however, have managed to stamp those rumours out by making clear their intention to keep Morata, club president Florentino Perez personally calling the player during his time away with the under-21s to say “he was very happy with me and that I was staying next year”, accounted the 20 year old.
Real will be looking to Morata to provide a beacon for the future as they look to rebuild after the departure of Jose Mourinho. He has used this summer to show he does indeed have the talent he has shown in glimpses with Madrid.
It all seems like, deservedly, he will be given more chance to show his excellent potential in this coming La Liga season.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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