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Sunday July 9 2017
The Morata mystery

After seeing a proposed move to Manchester United collapse, Alvaro Morata is back where he started. Ed Peacock analyses the Real Madrid striker’s situation.

A penny for the thoughts of Alvaro Morata right now. The Real Madrid striker has spent the summer looking like he was going to make a big-money move to be reunited with Jose Mourinho at Manchester United. He was even rumoured to have cut short his honeymoon to return to the Spanish capital, in an attempt to help broker the move.

That transfer is now not going to happen, however, with the Old Trafford club instead agreeing a deal for Everton hotshot Romelu Lukaku and simultaneously ending their interest in Morata.

After falling foul in the latest round that is the eternal power struggle of transfer negotiations between the world’s two richest clubs, it leaves the Castilla graduate with a big decision to make.

His choice is quite straight-forward, stay and fight for a place in Zidane’s side or pursue a move elsewhere. He has the potential to be a superstar in his own right, but for a player who will celebrate his 25th birthday next season, the time has come to leave the age of potential behind. This is an age when a player should be delivering week in, week out, but to do this he needs to play, and in a World Cup season, Morata will want to play.

If he decides to stay at the Santiago Bernabeu, he faces a fight to play. Indeed, he won’t be first choice like he could be elsewhere. Morata only started 20 games in all competitions last season, but he’s better than a being just a squad player. He’s good enough to be the 'main man'.

Morata hit 15 League goals for the European and Spanish champions last season - an impressive feat when you consider he only started 14 games in La Liga. That is as good a goals-to-game ratio as any striker in European football. But he will always play second fiddle at the Bernabeu, especially when the 'big' games come around.

When fit, Benzema will play. When fit, Gareth Bale will play. Ditto Ronaldo. And with the Portuguese’s role changing to that of more of an orthodox No 9, the opportunities to play through the middle will only het slimmer for the former Juventus man.

But that’s not to say there won’t be chances for Morata to play. Zidane showed a willingness to rotate his forward players last term, and the sheer volume of games Los Blancos play will see this continue into the 2017-18 campaign. The fact that Morata is flexible enough to play along the front line is an advantage for him. It's just a question of whether he will be patient enough to wait for his opportunity again.

If he wanted to seek a transfer, a fee of anything up to €80m could be needed to prise him away from Madrid - it is a fee that many clubs across Europe will struggle to pay. But should a club pay it, it would give Morata the chance to be the main man at any prospective new club. No club will pay that for a ‘squad player’.

Chelsea would look to be his best option for a transfer right now. And the rumours are they will now revive their interest. Ironically, the Lukaku news leaves the Blues in a similar position to that of Morata. The assumption was the big Belgian wanted a move back to West London and that the Premier League winners were equally keen to strike a deal.

It could turn out to be a mutually-convenient situation. With Diego Costa on his way out, Chelsea are on the hunt for a new No 9 and have the finance to make it happen, and with Antonio Conte at the helm, it would be something of familiar face to help the young Spaniard settle.

They would also give him the platform to be the main man, as well as an opportunity to play week in, week out. With players such as Eden Hazard, Willian and Cesc Fabregas already at Conte’s disposal, he will get plenty of chances to score goals.

So, Morata has a decision to make – and a big one at that, Madrid have laid down the gauntlet; if he leaves, it won't be for cheap, and if he stays, he’ll have to be patient for game time once more. Everything tends to happen for a reason, and he must now take time to consider the options available to him, before deciding his next move.

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