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Morata believes making friends with referees is ‘the only way’ he’ll get the calls

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Chelsea’s record signing opens up about his first season at the Bridge, including his mysterious back injury

Norwich City v Chelsea - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by James Chance/Getty Images

Álvaro Morata recently sat down with Marca for a big interview and actually said some interesting things. In fairness, Morata is usually more interesting in interviews than most thanks to his introspective nature, but in this one he opens up in great detail about his mysterious back injury and also talks about adjusting to life under Premier League refereeing.

Let’s start with the latter, since that’s what I chose for the headline. He was actually asked about his future at Chelsea, but he quickly transitioned that into learning to deal with the standard of Premier League refereeing, which I presume is for future reference (i.e. buzz off, Juventus).

“I now know what the Premier League is like and what the referees are like. I’m starting to befriend them now in the final stretch of the season because it’s the only way for them to call more fouls for you. In the first half of the season it was a crazy thing. I protested a lot. One of them even told me that he knew it was a foul, but that he wasn’t going to call it for me. This is the style of the Premier League and the likable one ends up being chosen.”

So the presumption is now that he’ll make friends with the referees, he’ll get a few more calls. Of course, it took Drogba a while to shed his initial impression as well, so Morata will just have to persevere for a bit.

More importantly, he’s going to have to get over his missed big chances, which became a feature of his season even more so than the productive connection he developed with César Azpilicueta.

“The number of goals is very important for a forward, but sometimes a striker scores over 30 and the team doesn’t win anything. I prefer to score goals and to win titles, which could happen this season. I’ve earned quite a few points and that’s my job. I also know that I could have been better because I have also missed a lot of clear chances. I know I’ve not been myself. The head fails when you’re not well and when you’re not balanced mentally. I look back and I see the missed chances and I cannot believe it. I ask myself how I’ve missed that. One centimetre or two is what makes the difference between being ruined or succeeding.”

Morata talks a lot about his “head” in this interview, as he often does when asked to render a verdict on his own performances, failures, successes. He’s probably a bit too introspective for his own good — sometimes to helps to be ignorant of your own faults in professional sports — but he’s made it work so far and presumably he will know how to deal with it going forward.

One thing that he couldn’t deal with during the season at all was surprisingly physical rather than mental however, namely his back injury. He’s talked a bit about visiting a specialist in Germany to get it treated, but he’s never opened up about the extent of the pain, the limitations it placed on his mobility, and the amount of injections he needed just to get through the days. That no one could figure out what the problem was for some time was more frustrating for him than anything else, and understandably so.

“It has been a complicated year for me and I don’t think it’s been the best year for the team either. I’ve gone through a tough year. It all started so well. Everybody loved me and I was scoring goals, but it’s different now. People say things to me on the street, but they don’t know what I’ve gone through. The person who does know what I’ve gone through is my wife. I would rather have torn a muscle and be out for three months than not know exactly what I had. I wanted to play and to keep scoring, but I couldn’t. I didn’t know what I had. The Chelsea doctor did, but we went to see doctors in England and they didn’t find that. We went to Germany and what happened there was very difficult for me.”

“I had to go several times to Germany to receive a treatment in which they put injections in my back. It hurt a lot and then I would have to return to London to train the next day. I think I made a mistake. I should have stopped playing. When you’re injured you’re injured and that’s that. You can maybe play one match, but you can’t carry on for a month. On top of that, I didn’t have much luck during this time. If I’d scored in one of those matches then something would have changed. The head is in charge and controls everything. The day before playing against West Ham they told me that I was going to become a father. I wanted to play, but I couldn’t even move in the warm-ups. I told the doctor to inject me because I had to play. I wanted to dedicate a goal to my future children and, from then on, I entered into a mode where I didn’t want to stop because I wanted to demonstrate something. It was all bad.”

The mental aspect creeps again of course, though Morata had mentioned recently that he’s learned a lot from this episode, including that sometimes you have to know when to stop.

“Yes, that’s clear. I have learned from it and I won’t do it again. I suffered. I would arrive home from matches and from training and I had to inject myself a couple of times because I couldn’t stand the pain. Nobody told me ‘you have a tear here or there’. They scanned me in all of my muscles from the gluteus to the back. I’d be eating or dining and suddenly I’d feel sharp pain and have to stop. I couldn’t even drive. I wanted to, but nothing. I then returned to play a cup match and it seemed like I was fine and then it returned. I didn’t say anything. Only the doctor, the coach and my family knew. I was very complicated.”

-Álvaro Morata; source: Marca

Morata seems like he’s over this mystery injury now, though it sounds like it’s something that could flare up at a moment’s notice. Getting to rest it this summer, should he not get picked for the World Cup (unlikely, but could happen), might be beneficial for all.

Of course Morata wants to play in the World Cup, and he wants to win the FA Cup, and he wants Real Madrid to beat Liverpool ... be sure to click over and read the rest of the interview. Morata’s never not fascinating.