Following Eden Hazard’s recent efforts, Álvaro Morata has been on a bit of a media blitz as well, much of it promotional. The Chelsea striker recently switched boots, staying with adidas but changing to a different line, from X to NEMEZIZ. Or something. Either way, his interview with the Mail’s Adam Crafton wasn’t completely unprompted — unlike when Crafton tried to sell with his recent Diego Costa interview, in which he supposedly just sacked up one fine day at Diego’s home in Lagarto where Chelsea’s loss to Burnley just happened to be on TV.
The Morata interview isn’t free of such boastful fake news either, with Crafton claiming that “this is his first newspaper interview since joining Chelsea”, which is only true if we believe that newspapers only exist in England. Morata, after all, just did a fantastic interview with Diego Torres for El País and last month had another revealing chat with Juan Castro for Marca.
But I digress.
This first big interview with an English newspaper builds on a lot of what he’s said in his previous Spanish interviews. He talks about the pressure of his transfer fee, the pressure of repaying Conte’s faith, the pressure, in general, of top level football and especially the pressure on strikers who are almost exclusively judged on how many goals they score and how often, and how his wife helped him through some of the tougher times in Italy. If you follow either of them on social media, you’ll know that they’re practically inseparable despite having jobs that don’t exactly lend themselves to a being home a lot, namely professional footballer and fashion model.
Morata used the word “bizarre” to describe his summer up to that point when he arrived at Chelsea, but now that all the transfer drama has been sorted out, he’s settled in quite nicely. With each appearance he’s getting better and better at dealing with the physicality and pace of the league, as well as developing chemistry with his Chelsea teammates (which hopefully he’ll start doing soon with Hazard, too). Morata has talked about the difference, as he sees it, between football in England and Spain/Italy as well as what Conte’s tactics are like in person, but in this interview, he also talks a bit about what he’s learned in those other leagues and how maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that he was able to get the better of Wes Morgan and Harry Maguire having regularly tested himself against the likes of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci (and Pepe, even).
“You have to be clever. I’m not worried — at Juve I trained against Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci every day. [Playing against Chiellini as akin to going] into a cage with a hungry gorilla and trying to take his food. Kick, kick, kick!
“Pepe at Real Madrid is a great guy — he didn’t kick me as much. I think the Italians saw this handsome kid coming from Madrid, where it is a bit softer, and it was a good education. They were great mentors.”
Speaking of former teammates he’s learned a lot from, Morata credits some of his heading prowess to none other than Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as newly minted Spurs benchwarmer Fernando Llorente.
“If I score every game with my head, no problem. I don’t care if it’s a bobble off my knee or it goes in off my arse, a goal is a goal! At Real Madrid, I did heading drills with Cristiano Ronaldo. You see him go up for headers, that spring and power, he is a real beast.
“At Juventus, I saw Fernando Llorente, how he finds space and directs his headers. I like the physical challenge.”
But beyond all that, perhaps the most interesting part is where he reveals just how close he came to joining Chelsea twelve months earlier, when he instead went back to Madrid (and so in London, Conte and Costa buried their hatchet and César Azpilicueta ended his brief tenure as a real estate agent).
“I spoke with Conte several times - and not only this summer. I felt in debt to him. He signed me for Juventus but left very quickly to manage Italy. I always wanted to play for him after that. It was only two months with him but it felt like I’d known him forever. When I knew he wanted me this summer, I didn’t think twice. I did everything I could to make the move happen.
“Last summer it was close. Cesar Azpilicueta was a bit annoyed because he had already started house-hunting for me last summer. We’d even got estate agents on board. This time Cesar has sorted everything!”
“When I spoke to Conte last summer, I said ‘If I’m going to leave Real Madrid, it will only be for Chelsea’. I remember I was with my wife after hearing him out and I said ‘Chelsea are going to win the league this season’. And that’s exactly what happened. Now we need to repeat it!”
-Álvaro Morata; source: Mail
So say we all.