An 18-month period filled by success, misery, inconsistency and hard luck as a Chelsea player for Alvaro Morata has come to an end, for the time being, having secured a season-and-a-half loan switch to Atletico Madrid on Monday.
Chelsea signed the striker for a then club-record fee in July 2017 from Real Madrid for £58 million, Antonio Conte securing the signature of the man he wanted to replace Diego Costa, whose exit to Atletico will now see him play alongside Morata.
For Blues fans, most of his 72 appearances for the club endured supporters wondering where the striker they had put so much faith and belief into at the start of his short spell in London and had vanished too. In his first eight games, he netted seven goals in all competitions, including a hat-trick against Stoke City, making him look like he was going to be a menace that could really put himself up there with Chelsea’s past 21st century striking gods such as Costa, Didier Drogba and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
However, his next 64 appearances would see him net just 17 times for Chelsea, in a run filled with sensational misses and confidence levels so low that even Fernando Torres’s hit and miss career in a blue shirt would have been envious of, the two Spanish forwards have more in common than you may think.
Both arrived at Stamford Bridge for club-record transfer fees with a huge pedigree on their shoulder, especially Torres. They were both Spanish, both wore the number nine shirt, although Morata changed to 29 following the birth of his twin sons. Yet, whilst Morata started fantastically, only for it to all go against him, Torres’ fortunes went in a very opposite direction. They both still struggled for form for the majority of their Chelsea careers and both used loan moves to Atletico to get away from Stamford Bridge.
One of the main reasons Morata struggled at Chelsea was due to this being his first experience of being a first-choice striker at any club, an opportunity and responsibility that didn’t take long to get the better of him. Chelsea supporters wanted Morata to do well, and were reliant on him, given he had just replaced Costa, a man heavily responsible for goalscoring during a three-year stint where the club won two Premier League titles and a League Cup.
At Real Madrid and Juventus, Morata’s only other previous clubs, he played second fiddle to Karim Benzema in Spain and the Argentine duo of Carlos Tevez and Paulo Dybala in Turin, essentially as an impact sub who could be relied on occasionally but as a first-choice striker, this was an experience foreign to him and one that proved to be too much for the Spaniard.
He was relied on heavily by the fans and the team to produce in front of goal as often as Costa did, but their strike rates proved to be incomparable.
A year ago, today, Chelsea acquired Olivier Giroud from Arsenal to bolster their attacking options, whilst sending Michy Batshuayi out on loan to Borussia Dortmund. For a brief spell, Giroud quickly became favoured by Antonio Conte, but in the end, neither striker had enough in them to fire Chelsea to a spot in the Champions League.
Morata became infamous for predominately scoring headers from Cesar Azpilicueta’s crosses, and understandably so, to the point where when his in-swinging crosses were either spotted by opposition defences, or failure to do so would result in a rare goal for the Spaniard. Without Azpilicueta’s crosses, Morata often looked a little vacant wondering around in an often-offside position.
Sadly, for Alvaro, regardless of whether his move to Atletico does or does not work out, his days as a Chelsea striker and a supposedly important one, look all but numbered. Gonzalo Higuain is now on loan from Juventus and certainly short-term looks to be the man Maurizio Sarri has left his trust into. A disappointing but essential exit for Morata that was required by all parties.