Can Borja Mayoral do what Alvaro Morata did for Real Madrid?
Real Madrid had a great 2016-17 season, where they were able to retain their UEFA Champions League title and also win La Liga, following a barren run of five years. The main reason behind this was that Los Blancos had excellent squad depth.
Real Madrid had the likes of Alvaro Morata, James Rodriguez and Mariano Diaz on the bench, who performed admirably when Zinedine Zidane gave them a chance. Of the aforementioned players, Morata was, perhaps, the best as his numbers spoke volumes.
In the 43 games (19 starts and 24 appearances as a substitute) that he played for Real Madrid last season, the striker was able to score 20 goals. The Spaniard kept pushing Zidane to give him more match time, but the gaffer always preferred Karim Benzema over him.
There's no doubt that Morata played a crucial part in Real Madrid's double-winning season. It was his string of excellent performances that allowed Zidane to rest his first team players, Cristiano Ronaldo and Benzema. The duo, especially Ronaldo, got regular breathers which explains why their output was consistent last season.
The departure of Alvaro Morata and Mariano Diaz
Morata left for Chelsea this past summer as he wanted to play more and quite rightly so. Though the Spaniard's departure didn't affect Real Madrid's first team, it left a pretty big hole in their squad.
The club had already sold another striker -- Mariano Diaz -- nearly a month before they decided to part ways with Morata. Diaz scored 5 goals in 14 appearances for Real Madrid, and was a relatively tiny, but useful cog in the works.
There was speculation in the summer transfer window, claiming that Kylian Mbappe would join Real Madrid. However, the French wonderkid ended up at Paris Saint-Germain, and Madrid didn't bring in any new face to the Bernabeu.
Having sold two strikers, Real Madrid decided that Borja Mayoral would be enough as a cover for Benzema.
Borja Mayoral's career so far
Borja Mayoral joined Real Madrid's youth setup in 2007. He scored 102 goals in just 77 games for the Real Madrid Under-18s and Under-16s. The Spaniard was also the top-scorer in the UEFA European Under-19 Championship with Spain. By these impressive performances, he made his first-team debut for Real Madrid on 31st October 2015.
The striker was offloaded to Bundesliga club VfL Wolfsburg so that he can gain more experience. He made 19 appearances (Starting 3, substituted in 16) there and scored just two goals in them.
Interestingly, he scored both of these goals when Valerian Ismael included him in the starting eleven. Although he had lesser game time there as one would have expected, he surely would have learned a few things.
Whether it's playing as a winger on a couple of occasions or starting against German giants, Bayern Munich, the striker had at least something new to explore there. When asked about his spell in Germany, he told AS
"It was a tough season but also a learning curve. I would have liked to play more, but in Germany, training is different, there's more contact, and I've become stronger, which I needed.That will serve me well."
The striker has now made his return to the Spanish club and looks like the only replacement Zidane has for Karim Benzema.
Possible reasons behind Mayoral's comeback
Zinedine Zidane unquestionably took a big gamble by not bringing any new striker to the club. But, the manager trusts the youngster and has observed him quite firmly at Real Madrid Castilla. He also once said, "He's a striker who scores every time he has a shot" about Mayoral.
Also, there were reports in Spanish media that Borja Mayoral is the best striker that the Real Madrid academy members feel they have produced over the last few years. He's known to be a striker who's strong on the ball, good with both feet, and for his ability to attain himself in the space between defenders.
Also, his playing style is like Karim Benzema, which is suited for the Madrid's style of play. The Spaniard has even admitted how much he idolises Madrid's number 9 and former club legend, Raul.
"I used to look up to Raul because he was always looking for loose balls and paying attention to everything that went on in the area," Mayoral once said of his legendary muse.
"Then Benzema came to Madrid, and I studied how he played with his back to goal, and inside and outside the box. You always have to have your eye on the goal, and I always do. I'm always in the area, alive to any rebound or loose ball, so I can score those scrappy goals which count the same as any others."
Borja Mayoral in the current season with Real Madrid
Mayoral has just played 118 minutes so far with Real Madrid. His only start this season came against Real Sociedad in La Liga at Anoeta. The striker opened the scoring in the 19th minute and pretty much did everything on his own for the second goal of his side.
His first goal highlighted his point of "being in the area" and showed tremendous pace, strength and dribbling skills for the second goal in that game, which was slid in by Sociedad defender Rodrigues.
Other than that he has made five appearances as a substitute, and hasn't had much to do for Zidane's team.
It will be a massive boost for the youngster's confidence that his manager has faith in him and he certainly repaid that faith with an excellent performance against Real Sociedad.
The striker will surely get more opportunities in the future, and it will be interesting to see how he takes them. His form will be crucial if Real Madrid has to successfully go with the same rotation as of last season.
Do you think he can replicate Alvaro Morata's importance at Real Madrid?