Al Khor, Qatar: Spain and Atletico Madrid striker Alvaro Morata has a star-studded resume, spending time at Real Madrid, Juventus and Chelsea, but he is rarely considered an elite striker.
Two La Liga titles, two Serie A titles, and two Champions League trophies feature in his list of honours, however, at the age of 30, it looks as if Morata could let down a lot in his career. However, it was his fine goal that put Spain ahead of Germany in their 1-1 World Cup draw on Sunday, and another sign that Morata’s time to shine has finally come.
“Now is everything,” the Qatar World Cup organizers insist, a slogan plastered around Doha and shouted by pitchside announcers, but Morata can take seriously, after years of closeness, not giving up and almost. Morata’s finish from Jordi Alba’s low cross was deadly, leaving Manuel Neuer without any chance.
The striker, who came on as a substitute against both Germany and Costa Rica, scored in Spain’s 7-0 opener, setting up a goal against Los Tecos. Morata made good performances with Atletico Madrid, led by Diego Simeone, this season, despite only five goals in 14 matches in the Spanish League.
He scored a last-gasp goal for Spain against Portugal in September to send La Roja into the last four in the Nations League final. And although Luis Enrique has so far picked winger Marco Asensio before him in the starting center forward role, Morata looks confident and capable of taking his chances when they come.
“I feel comfortable in the national team, and I’m proud to be here,” Morata said in a press conference after being named player of the match against Germany. “It’s not easy, the demands are on us and the pressure is very high, whether you’re a starter or substitute.
“I want to win all the games, I’m a soldier like everyone else, and we’re going to die together. In addition to being a great team, we’re a great group and very united.”
Morata started his youth career at Atletico Madrid but moved to Real Madrid and made his debut in 2010 with Jose Mourinho’s first team.
The next few years moved slowly, though, as he did appear on the bench in the 2014 UEFA Champions League Final, with Real Madrid beating Atlético in extra time.
That summer Morata signed with Juventus, in search of regular football, scoring in both legs of the Champions League semi-finals to knock out Real Madrid – but Barcelona were victorious in the Berlin final.
Real Madrid exercised their buy-back clause in the summer of 2016 and Morata became a useful part of the squad for a season, although he was part of Zinedine Zidane’s team, just behind Karim Benzema in the standings.
With a league double and the Champions League in his pocket, Morata decided to try his luck in the Premier League with Chelsea.
Shy and a bit sensitive, Blues fans thought he lacked conviction when compared to his predecessor Diego Costa, especially after arriving for a club record £60m ($73m) fee in July 2017.
Morata lost his place to Olivier Giroud and, in January 2019, was transferred to his first youth team, Atlético, on an 18-month loan – although they soon decided to make the deal permanent. But by the summer of 2020, after a disappointing full season, Atlético loaned him out to Juventus.
The Italians extended a one-year contract for another season but did not sign him and Morata returned to Atlético in July 2022. He started the season amid uncertainty about his future, but secured his place in Simeone’s team.
Luis Enrique maintained confidence in him, despite the clamor that called for the inclusion of other players such as Iago Aspas or Borja Iglesias. At Euro 2020, the coach has defended Morata through thick and thin, even though he missed many great chances. Morata pays him back, and after a decade of not keeping the promise, maybe now he really is all.