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Alvaro Morata is ready for the big time at Real Madrid
- Updated: 1 June, 2012
When it comes to youth development there a few coaches who hold more kudos in the game than Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger. The list of youngsters the Frenchman has brought through the ranks, first at Highbury and now at the Emirates Stadium, reads like an A to Z of world stars and Arsenal can quite rightly boast to have one of the premier academies in football.
With this in mind, it came as little surprise when the North London club were linked with a move for Real Madrid starlet Alvaro Morato in January of this year by UK newspaper The People. It was suggested the youngster could move on a loan deal to the Emirates as he struggled to break into the first team at the Bernabeu and, although no deal materialised, the news gave Morata the exposure outside Spain that his talents surely deserve.
The 19-year-old is a clinical and composed ‘killer’ in front of goal, add to that his pace, agility and strength – then you have what may just be the next home-grown goal scoring hero for Real Madrid. Some would argue he is already a hero as his 14 goals helped fire the club’s B team, Real Madrid Castilla, to the second tier of Spanish football for the first time in five years this season.
Standing at 6 ‘2” tall, Morata has already drawn comparisons with ex-Madrid striker Fernando Morientes, however there is a suggestion from some that he could go even further than the former Spanish international. His attitude may just put him one step ahead, with the striker reportedly being hugely disappointed with his cameo first-team debut against Zaragoza last season as he failed to score. Ambition paired with natural talent means Morata could just be something very special indeed.
Real Madrid’s former Sporting Director Jorge Valdano even riled boss Jose Mourinho last January when he suggested the young Morata could be the answer to the goalscoring problems that had hampered the Portuguese coach during the 2010/11 campaign.
Despite being regarded as a huge prospect by many at the club, Mourinho felt Morata was not quite at the standard he required and he retorted in a press conference: “The player is not yet ready to be in the starting line up of Real Madrid. He needs to grow up and finish his formation with Castilla.” Following that, Adebayor came in and Morata was left to ‘grow up’ at Castilla and with few complaints, the Madrid-born striker did just that.
He went on to hit eight goals in eight games after his first real introduction to the national media, eventually finishing his first season playing for the reserve side with 14 goals. Since then, Morata has gone from strength to strength, despite finding senior opportunities limited in a squad that now features the likes of Angel di Maria and a finally-firing Karim Benzema alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain.
Morata actually began his fledging career at cross-town rivals Atletico before moving to another Madrid side, Getafe in 2007. The youngster spent less than 12 months at los Azulones however before arriving at Real Madrid in 2008 where he instantly began to show off his potential in the Juvenil C side. Morata impressed enough to move into the Juvenil A setup for the 2009/10 season and did so well, he ended the campaign in the club’s C side
Morata won two youth titles and scored an impressive 34 goals in the process, before being promoted to the B team in 2010, and – even more impressively – he was also taken on the first team’s pre-season tour.
His first season for Castilla certainly opened doors for him, and he was picked for the Spanish under 19 squad to go to the European Championships late summer in Romania. He ended the tournament not only as a champion, but also the top goalscorer with six goals. Equally impressive were his displays, in which he fully showcased his talent on a big stage.
Mourinho again mentioned Morata in press conferences ahead of last season, claiming he had ‘three strikers and Morata’ for the 2011-12 season and the player was also offered a new two-year extension on his contract, highlighting that he is well and truly being regarded as one for the future.
It seems the idea is to integrate the youngster into first team training sessions whilst he still plays for Castilla. He also managed one run-out for the senior side last season, although it lasted just eight minutes at the end of Real Madrid’s 5-0 victory over Espanyol in March.
No matter how impressive Morata’s performances are however, there is the lingering doubt as to whether he will ever really break through into a first team that is blessed with such incredible attacking talent already. Recent history is not on his side, that is for sure. He only has to look at the struggles faced by other highly-regarded youngsters such as Pablo Sarabia, Sergio Canales and Pedro Leon to realise just how difficult it is going to be. There is also a long list of players who could not make the grade at the Bernabeu but have since gone on to prove their worth elsewhere; Borja Valero, Alvaro Negredo, Juan Mata and Dani Parejo to name just a few.
While it is true that the odds are against Morata in his quest to be the next star striker at the newly-crowned Spanish champions, many believe Morata may just prove up to the task. His modesty and confidence will also benefit him massively – he has already been quoted as telling Mourinho he can ‘call on him whenever needed’ , saying: “The club supports me and that’s why I to continue fighting. I’m young and still learning but if I’m called upon, I’ll be there.”
He is certainly under no illusions, but you just get a feeling that anomalous selection may just appear in the Real Madrid first team very shortly, and when that time comes, who knows just how far Alvaro Morata could go?Follow @icentrocampista