Álvaro Morata’s statistics this season point to anything other than an habitual substitute. The Real Madrid striker’s goal in Riazor took his tally for the season to 18, a figure bettered only by Cristiano Ronaldo (31), while Morata’s goals per game ratio in the league is exceeded only by Leo Messi, who scores on average once every 75 minutes to the Spain forward’s 82.
However, try as he might Morata has been unable to dislodge Karim Benzema from the starting striker’s role since his return to the Bernabéu from Juventus last summer. Although the Frenchman is undisputed in the eyes of Zinedine Zidane his numbers do not support his case. Benzema has scored one fewer than Morata and has played 1,060 minutes more.
Morata future under consideration
Morata appears to be playing a game of tennis – his other great passion - with his manager. The striker sends the ball over the net by putting it into the net and Zidane sends it back by benching him in the Grand Slams against Bayern, Atlético and Barça. As Morata said of his tennis prowess in an interview with Tuttosport: “I’m pretty good but I’ve got a bad temper. If I make a mistake I destroy the racket.” Zidane will have to find a way to keep Morata from doing the same with his Bernabéu contract.
When Morata was in negotiations with Madrid last summer he spoke with Zidane before returning to his boyhood club but he feels that his situation this season does not add up to what was discussed at the time. Morata has made serious intimations that he may leave if he is not given more of a significant role and he has no shortage of suitors.
United, Chelsea, Juventus likely to be in the frame
Manchester United are interested and could well be on the lookout for a replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimovic while Antonio Conte is keen to take Morata to Stamford Bridge with Diego Costa looking increasingly likely to leave at the end of the season. Juventus could also enter the race for their former striker, who has a fan in Italy legend Gianluigi Buffon: “Álvaro doesn’t know how good he is,” the keeper has said.
The 2018 World Cup will also be a factor and there lies the great paradox with Morata, who is currently Spain’s starting number nine, coveted by some of Europe’s biggest clubs and yet rooted to the bench at Real Madrid.