Alvaro Morata is edging ever closer to his move away from Chelsea after passing his Atletico Madrid medical on Sunday.
Morata, 26, has struggled under Maurizio Sarri this season and is set to join the Madrid-based club on an initial loan move with the option to sign permanently at the end of the current campaign.
Why is Morata leaving Chelsea? Five key things to know…
- Morata signed from Real Madrid for a then-club-record fee of £57m in 2017.
- He started his Chelsea career brightly, scoring eight goals in his first eight matches last term, but his form has since dipped significantly, with Sarri preferring to utilise Eden Hazard in a false 9 role.
- This season he has netted just five league goals with Sarri calling him “mentally fragile” last month.
- The Italian has also revealed that the striker asked to leave the club in December.
- Chelsea have signed Gonzalo Higuain to replace the outgoing Spaniard.
Higuain has joined the west London club on a temporary basis until the end of the season from Juventus, but the Blues have the option to buy him for £31m in the summer or extend his loan for another season for £15m.
Morata has travelled to the Spanish capital to complete his transfer to the Wanda Metropolitano, which will see him link up with former Chelsea star Diego Costa, and he spoke of his delight.
🚨🚨🎙@AlvaroMorata, a la pregunta de @alexsilvestreSZ: “La gente que sabe de dónde vengo sabe mi historia y lo que significa para mí esto. El pasado es el pasado y estoy muy orgulloso también de ello”. pic.twitter.com/hYyYhwjvBb
— El Chiringuito TV (@elchiringuitotv) January 27, 2019
Speaking to reporters, Morata said: “I’m happy to be in Madrid, I’ve been waiting for many days, I still need final authorisation but I’m super happy and I want everything to be finalised, to start and train again with my colleagues.”
Ahead of Morata’s proposed move to Atleti, fans of the club vented their frustration with the transfer during their 2-0 win over Getafe on Saturday.
In the second half Alteti supporters could be heard chanting ‘Menos Morata y mas Borja Garces’ [‘Less Morata, more Borja Garces’], with fans eager to see academy product Garces given more first-team opportunities.
The 19-year-old scored on his first-team debut against Eibar in September, and has even drawn comparisons with club legend Fernando Torres, but he has not featured since.
Fans are now concerned the arrival of Morata will further push the teenager down the pecking order and stunt his development as well as his progress into the starting XI.
Meanwhile, Chelsea face Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup on Sunday with Higuain expected to make his Stamford Bridge debut.
Higuain could be a turning point in Chelsea’s season
Chelsea have had serious issues with the centre forward role this season, rotating between Hazard, Morata and Olivier Giroud – three players with completely contrasting abilities.
Hazard – a winger by trade – is blessed with exceptional dribbling ability that is best utilised out wide, while Giroud offers great physicality, but his lack of mobility is not in tune with Sarri’s intense style of play.
Morata is the most all-round striker of the three, but has struggled for form and consistency this season, failing to truly adapt to ‘Sarrismo’ and thrive in the final third.
Sarri’s reputation rose to prominence after ingeniously converting Dries Mertens from winger to false 9 during his time at Napoli, but that same philosophy hasn’t paid dividends with Hazard, who has looked wasted through the middle.
This is where Higuain – a player who flourished under the guidance of Sarri in Naples – comes into the equation; the Argentine knows the system, has the experience, and has all the attributes of a world class No 9.
Should Sarri get the best out of Higuain, then the striker will be able to cause havoc in the final third which will, in turn, take the pressure off the midfield, allowing Jorginho more time and space to dictate the tempo of play.
And this is the key to Sarri’s system, with Hazard in his natural position, the midfield given more room to thrive, and a goalscoring forward in the ranks, Chelsea should finish in the top four, and may even clinch silverware.