Álvaro Morata’s honesty when speaking about his personal struggles is something rarely seen in professional athletes. Over the years, he’s been quite open about his own issues with self-confidence, trust, and other difficulties that are not often associated with the “macho” world of football, or professional sports, in general. We like our heroes to be strong, unwavering, determined, unflappable, certainly in public. Morata is willing to freely admit to being a much more complex individual, though that does make us wonder how he’s managed to survive and can continue to survive the cutthroat, rough and tumble world of professional football.
After one and a half, highly inconsistent seasons in London, Morata managed to engineer himself a move back home to Madrid, where he feels loved and appreciated. For now.
“As I arrive at [Atlético’s] training centre, you can see in people’s faces when they trust you. When you are in the dressing room ahead a game, you see how your team-mates look at you.”
“At Chelsea there came a time when my team-mates, except for the Spaniards, well... you know, it is not the same when you play and you know that you give a pass to someone who is not going to do as well. You do not give the pass in the same way. Everyone who has played football once will understand that.”
Seems a bit unfair to make this a Spaniards vs. non-Spaniards issue, especially as Morata shows an understanding that he wasn’t doing well.
Unfortunately, he also seems to be expecting unconditional love, but that doesn’t really exist in sports, especially when it comes to the fans.
“I had lost confidence in myself previously. I was very upset by the opinion of the people in England. I think they caught me in the middle of everything. I didn’t quite feel loved or appreciated by the club or the fans. I started very well at Chelsea, but an injury in the end leaves you ‘dry’.”
“As bad as it was, I still scored 15 goals and won the FA Cup... but I was out of the World Cup, and for me that was the hardest thing that could happen to me in my life. I’ve dreamed of being able to play in a World Cup since I was 10 years old, and I chose Chelsea because I thought it would be the best club to later be able to play in the World Cup.”
“It’s a story I’d like to tell very slowly in the future. I went from being tied on the same amount of goals as [Mohamed] Salah and [Harry] Kane at the start of the first year, and people made a song about me, I could not even go out in London! And one day I get up with a shooting pain in my back, my level goes down, and they start telling me everything [referring to criticism about him] in England. You are supposed to be respected by fans, but you know...”
Morata’s mystery injury certainly didn’t help, but again his expectation of unconditional love from the fans is not exactly reasonable. We all had high expectations for him, thanks to his price tag, his skills, his excellent start, but for many, the hat-trick of clear cut misses against Arsenal was a breaking point. For Morata himself it began a spiral that he could not get out of until a change of scenery nearly twelve months later.
“I had a very bad time in London. In the end I was training alone. I talked to Maurizio Sarri and he told me some things that I knew were not going to be as he had said. I was very nervous. My wife was in shock with me.”
At the end of the day, it all boils down to the same old story: self-confidence and a lack of trust. It is a self-fulfilling cycle whose end depends not just on the environment, but also on Morata himself learning how to deal with these struggles.
At least at Atlético, it looks like he got the best environment possible to work on these things. Even though Diego Simeone may pass the image of the ultimate “hard man” in the football world, Morata’s account of how everything is working out for him at the club would tell you otherwise.
Thus, it is not really surprising that Morata is looking forward to making Atlético Madrid his permanent home. He goes as far as supplicating that the powers that be make it so as quickly as possible, just so he can find a bit more of ease over worries that Chelsea might choose to bring him back to the bad place.
“And in the end, it is a situation that you cannot control: it is neither about being positive or negative, or about trying to have fun or being worried. It’s the confidence that others have in you: your team-mates, the club... And I found it here at Atlético.”
“I have said it many times: there is a moment in which there are things that surpass fame, money and everything. Thank God, at Atlético I’ve been able to have a bit of all of this, but I would love to be here every year that I’m able to play at the highest level.”
“I want to stay at Atlético but, contractually, Chelsea can call me back. We will see what happens in the negotiations between them, but the two clubs already know what I want. I only ask, please, as I said to Atlético, do everything possible to do it as soon as possible. Because I just want to be here.”
-Álvaro Morata; source: Goal
There’s no place like home, as they say. Good luck to him.