When news broke on Wednesday that an agreement had been reached with Real Madrid for the transfer of Alvaro Morata, the overwhelming sensation among those associated with Chelsea was one of relief. With a Diego Costa-size hole in the squad and the transfer window drifting along without much progress in filling it, it was looking increasingly likely that Chelsea would be starting the new campaign with just one senior striker in their squad. Michy Batshuayi might have scored the title-clinching goal last season but with just a solitary Premier League start under his belt such a scenario looked bleak.
The failed pursuit of Everton’s Romelu Lukaku appeared as if it would come to define Chelsea’s business activity this summer. That they lost out to Manchester United for the Belgian’s services and seem to be missing out on Real Madrid right-back Danilo to Manchester City, an inability to get negotiations completed threatened to undermine the coming season before it had even begun.
But now Chelsea have a striker, one that has operated and proven himself among Europe’s elite. As with any newcomer to these shores, there will be the inevitable questions as to whether Morata can hack it in the rough and tumble Premier League, though he has shown himself to be adaptable in his career. He has already left Spain before to play for Juventus so the thought of a new challenge will not daunt him, nor will the attention he will receive as Chelsea’s most expensive ever signing.
With the 24-year-old set to move to Stamford Bridge for an initial fee of £58 million rising to £70m with various add-ons, Morata would appear to represent better value than the £90m deal that took Lukaku to Old Trafford. Only time will tell whether that is indeed the case, though the potential £20m discrepancy is not to be sniffed at while his suitability to playing at the very top level is not in question. In 2014-15, just months after swapping Madrid for Turin, Morata scored in both legs of the Champions League semifinal between his current and former clubs, including the decisive goal that gave Juventus a 3-2 aggregate win. He then promptly scored in the final against Barcelona to further enhance his reputation.
In fairness, he is a different kind of player to Lukaku, The Belgian is a powerful target man that plays largely between the width of the posts and whose sole focus is scoring goals. Morata is more lithe and mobile with a fondness for linking the play. But that isn’t to say he lacks a predatory instinct. Strong in the air and proficient striking with either foot, the Spaniard is a genuine goal threat.
His strike rate for both Real Madrid and Juventus is roughly one every three games which admittedly doesn’t sound too impressive coming from a player for whom Chelsea have just broken the bank. The sizeable caveat is that around half his appearances for each of those clubs have come as a substitute, suggesting he will be far more productive when given sufficient game time. Morata’s international career, meanwhile, has seen him score nine goals in 21 games for Spain. By means of comparison, Diego Costa has netted five in 15 matches for that same Spain national team.
Another attractive quality that Morata possesses is his familiarity with success. Although by no means the central figure behind any trophy lifts, he has already won the Champions League twice, La Liga twice and Serie A twice with a host of other cup wins to his name. Being used to success and knowing what it takes to achieve those targets can only be an asset both to himself and the rest of the Chelsea dressing room.
While Antonio Conte had reportedly identified Lukaku as his principal target, Morata’s arrival will surely ease any lingering disappointment. Conte was the man that initially brought Morata to Juventus and the effusive praise that the striker has already showered on his imminent new manager indicates that there is a positive relationship already in place. Training ground clashes such as the one between Conte and Costa in January should hopefully be a thing of the past.
The higher echelons of the club may well also be happier with the turn of events. Buying back Lukaku for a fee more than three times in excess of the £28m that they received from Everton in 2014 would have represented an embarrassment. It would also have prompted several pertinent probing questions over their transfer policy, not least the fact that a buy-back clause was not inserted into the move.
Real Madrid, after all, have done very well from such a clause having executed it two years into Morata’s spell at Juventus. Now they are set to make almost £50m profit on the player. If Morata starts regularly banging in the goals while wearing Chelsea blue then all parties will see it as an excellent piece of business.