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Neither money nor goals can buy happiness for Álvaro Morata

At least not goals against Vidi FC as the uneasy journey of the introspective footballer continues uneasily

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Southampton FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Álvaro Morata may be in the wrong line of work. A psychologist, psychoanalyst, or perhaps a philosopher could be a better use of his deep introspection and constant soul-searching. A week shy of his 26th birthday, his world-weary vision could rival those twice, if not three-times his age. His thoughts are way too complex for your average professional footballer, his motivations way too complicated.

After 15 months in England, they’re not getting any simpler either. If anything, they are getting more serious, as he reveals in an interview with El Mundo.

“The biggest critic with myself, and sometimes even exaggerating on purpose, is me. Nobody needs to tell me what I do wrong. I think I’ve never put myself in a comfortable situation, in fact last year I had a very high level of tension, and I paid it with the referees, with the rivals, etc ... I did not want to talk to anyone, and it was my wife who told me: ‘you’re wrong, this is not the way’. I got angry and even thought that she was also turning against me, look at her, she who loves me more than anything, just as I love her ... well, I imagine!

“I learned many things [from last year] because it was a very difficult year. I left my home to earn a place in the World Cup (squad) and in the end I was without World Cup and without anything. One cannot help but learn from such things, even if they are hard when you live them. Luckily I had my wife who always supported me, and the arrival of the children made everything more bearable, it was spectacular. I learned to control emotions, positive and negative.

“Above all [fatherhood has taught me] how to differentiate what is really important in life. Maybe you get home after a losing a match, pissed off, and you realize that yes, that is your job and it is important, but what is really important is that your children have health and grow healthy, without disease.”

-Álvaro Morata; source: El Mundo via Google Translate

Morata continues to deny that any of this is bordering on depression, but he admits that last season was a “bad time”, especially with injuries both physical and mental, and that happiness has been very hard to come by outside of his personal life.

“I said it was not depression, but that I had a very bad time. I arrived in London, scored seven goals in seven games, the fans sang to me, people loved me and suddenly I got injured, I wanted to play with pain and I was wrong. I was not there to compete, the doctors gave me the leave but I wanted to play. It was a mistake.

“I am a happy person, especially outside the field, outside of football. Within football I would like to be happier and for that I have to score more goals, which is what makes me happy. But I am sure that little by little they will enter, because I am having opportunities.”

-Álvaro Morata; source: El Mundo via Google Translate

And yet, when Morata scored against Vidi FC in the Europa League, his reaction wasn’t that of the goal-starved striker overjoyed and ready to burst with elation. Every person is different, but to many it seemed that Morata was on the verge of tears, even. Was it relief? Happiness? No, it’s far from anything that obvious.

“I don’t have to be happy for scoring against a far inferior team. What’s more is that I should have scored more than one, and that’s why I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t crying, or doing a lot of things that people said.

“In England, they take advantage of these situations because they don’t have the same standard with me than with other people, but hey, as long as they’re talking, it means you’re there and they, one way or another, want you to have bad luck.”

-Álvaro Morata; source: El Mundo via Sport Witness

Morata has spoken about the culture of criticism inherent in football — and society at large — but denying himself even that fleeting moment of happiness seems like unnecessary punishment. Fortunately, he looked a bit happier when celebrating his goal in the following game, which came at the end of a 31-pass Chelsea move.

Then again, maybe he was just putting on a show, like he does on his fabulously pretty, positive, and happy Instagram feed, to make it easier for us to understand him.

“There are times that Instagram is a false happiness. There are days when you are sad and you put an image of happiness that does not really reflect how you feel that day. But, in the end it is just another thing that also makes us money, that makes us more valued in advertising contracts...

“And then there is another aspect, and that is, say, you go out to have a beer, on your day off, and nothing happens and it doesn’t affect anything — because you’re young and it doesn’t mean you’re not taking care of yourself — but there are 300 mobile phones around you to take a picture of you...”

-Álvaro Morata; source: El Mundo via Google Translate

The trappings of fame certainly do not make Morata happy in those instances. And that may be hard for us to comprehend, especially when we see the paychecks the top players, including Morata, are earning in the modern game. But money isn’t a cure-all. It comes with its own set of problems, even.

“A lot of the time, money and fame can be a problem. There are a lot of people who think we have an enviable life or that we have more privileges than other people. But sometimes, money can cause problems with friends, which has happened to me.

“It can go all the way to your family, and people don’t take that into account. Money helps, of course, but it can also take a lot of things away from you. Footballers don’t normally have experience with money. I’m not talking about investments and businesses.

“It’s difficult at our age to have a friend who’s having a hard time because of decisions he’s taken in his life, and you’re the one who has to save him, and saying no is difficult. But if you do it once, you then have to do it twice, and then three times. Even if you have the money, they are f***ed up situations.”

-Álvaro Morata; source: El Mundo via Sport Witness

We might not be the only ones in need of a map to navigate Álvaro Morata’s complex, serious, beautiful mind, and find the X that marks the spot of buried happiness.

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