People can — and have — said many things about Álvaro Morata since Chelsea made him the club’s then-record signing 18 months ago. Many of them have been uncomplimentary.
But there’s one thing nobody can accuse Morata of, and that’s being secretive about his rather complex and introspective state of mind. He’s been painfully open about his loss of confidence and desire to leave and run away from the challenges he faced.
Contributing to his woes have been (physical) injuries, the death of a friend in a car accident and his wife’s difficult pregnancy with twins. Combined with a loss of form, he hit bottom.
Now, in his typically honest style, he’s going public with the fact that’s he’s seeing a psychologist to help his mental game. He’s undoubtedly not the first player to ever do this, but most don’t talk about it openly, even if they should.
“I think it’s very important to have confidence. Things go well for you. In this period of my life I have realised that you always have to train your mind. It’s not only about being physically prepared. To withstand the pressure, you also have to work, it is the most important thing in our field.
”I had never thought about training the mind, really. When a player hears the word psychologist at the first, you are taken aback, but I realised that I needed help.”
Seeing a shrink — note the derogatory term/putdown that’s so commonly used — carries with it a negative stigma, and not just in the macho world of professional sports. People prefer not to admit that they’re doing it, to avoid the general feelings of inadequacy and shame emanating from society at large.
Morata tells Spanish newspaper ABC that he had the same attitude. To his credit, he did what he needed to do for his health, and now he’s feeling better than ever!
”At first, I was a bit embarrassed to talk to the psychologist and tell him all my problems and with the help of everyone I have managed to recover happiness in football.
”The idea of going to the psychologist, for anyone who has any problem, is associated with something negative. I think everyone sees it that way when it’s really a very important thing. Now I am happier than ever at Chelsea and happier than ever in the national team even if it is not my best moment on the pitch.
”I’ve scored goals again, but it’s not when I’m playing my best football. I will continue going to the psychologist, it helps me to manage the pressure and emotions.”
It got so bad for Morata that not only did he want out of Chelsea and English football, he wanted out of the spotlight altogether.
He figured he wasn’t cut out to handle the pressure that comes with a starring role on a top team.
“I told my wife and my family that I had to take a step or two back to enjoy [football] again. I was under a lot of pressure and when you’re like that you stop enjoying [football].
”It is at that moment when you have to realise that either you let them help you and listen to you or you can keep on getting worse. This summer I said to myself once or twice that I wanted to go to a team where I would be happy again, without pressure.
”My wife laughed and said: ‘Do not say nonsense...’ Many things happen in your head but now I am enjoying [football] again. It was a matter of adjusting my head, which is what controls the body.”
This makes the second time this season that Morata has claimed he’s all better in the head department.
His form is sporadically beginning to match his new, more positive attitude. He’s scoring goals (five in the Premier League, six overall) even though he admits he’s not yet at his best. He seems to be doing less of his most self-destructive behavior, whining to refs every time he’s knocked off of his feet.
Some of those bad habits returned in the 0-0 draw against Everton, where he copped a booking for dissent, even. He remains a work in progress. But he has the belief of his coach. And now it looks like he’s restoring his own belief in himself as well.