Every week at The Center Circle, we are highlighting a different player in a feature we call “On the Spot”. We’ll take a look at superstars, underrated gems, aging veterans, and young unknowns who should be known. We’ll peruse their club and international careers, taking note of their teams, statistics, and highlight reels. We’ll illuminate their strengths and weaknesses and comment on their personalities and reputations. It will be some fun. If there is anyone you want to see “On the Spot”, feel free to comment below.
A journey that started in the Spanish capital nearly ten years ago has now found its way to the biggest stage in club competition. After defeating his boyhood club, Real Madrid, in the semifinals, Juventus striker Álvaro Morata will now take aim at Barcelona in hopes of claiming the Champions League title.
After brief stops within Atlético Madrid’s and Getafe’s youth systems, a 16-year-old Álvaro Morata finally found a home at arguably the biggest club in the world: Real Madrid. It took just two years for the young Spanish striker to show his worth to then manager Jose Mourinho, and in 2010, Morata found himself debuting for the famed Los Blancos. In his first season of senior competition, the 18-year-old was only able to make two appearances off the bench for Mourinho’s men, but the fact that Morata was able to make even one appearance in such a talent packed squad was an accomplishment in itself.
During the next several seasons, Morata’s time would be split between the full senior side and Real Madrid Castilla (the reserves). A lack of minutes against La Liga competition did not appear to dismay the young forward as he continued to dominate with the reserve squad. The 2011-12 campaign in the Segunda División B (the third tier of Spanish competition) ended with Morata’s first silverware as a professional player. RM Castilla dominated the table and finished with a massive 14-point gap over their closest competitor. However, 2011-12 saw Morata suit up for the first team just once as an 81st minute sub in a 5-0 shellacking of Espanyol but that was good enough to earn him a La Liga winner’s medal as Madrid claimed its record 32nd title.
The long awaited breakthrough finally came in 2012 as Morata scored his first competitive senior goal in a November game against Levante. Over the course of the season, the Spanish striker was still spending time with the reserve team, but he appeared in a career-high 15 games for Madrid between La Liga, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey. Starts against fierce rivals like Atlético and Barcelona in La Liga showed the faith that Mourinho had in his young star, and Morata repaid the faith with a key assist in the team’s 2-1 victory over Barca in El Clasico.
In his final season in the Spanish capital, Morata was finally given a regular place in the senior side under new manager Carlo Ancelotti. His playing time continued to increase as his career progressed, but he was unable to fully break into a starting eleven that contained the likes of Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo. In 2013-14, the 21-year-old scored a career-best eight goals in La Liga, and it ended with Champions League and Copa del Rey titles being added to his already impressive résumé.
An Italian Home
After starting just three league games in the 2013-14 season, Morata was sold to Italian giants Juventus for a reported fee in the range of €20 million. Despite his youth, Morata quickly showed the Turin faithful why the club had splashed so much cash to bring him to Serie A. His first goal for the Old Lady came in just his third game in Serie A against Atalanta, but it took much longer for the 21-year-old to break into the starting eleven. Morata’s first league start did not come until November, but it came with another goal for the young striker.
In the second half of the season, the former Madrid player has started to truly fulfill his potential as he’s scored nine goals for his new club. The Champions League seems to be his favorite time to play as his crucial goals against Borussia Dortmund and, most notably, his goals against former club Real Madrid in the semifinals have pushed Juventus to the precipice of greatness. The famed Italian club have already claimed their league title and an Italian cup, and now all that stands in the way of Morata being a part of a historic treble-winning side is a talented Barcelona team.
Álvaro Morata has been involved in the Spanish youth teams starting at the U17 level al the way through to the U21 team. It wasn’t until just recently, however, that he finally appeared for the famed La Roja. In November 2014, the Juventus striker was called up for games against Germany and Belarus, and made his debut against Belarus during the nation’s quest to qualify for the 2016 Euros. A senior national team goal finally came during Morata’s first career start against Ukraine and it proved to be the match winner.