Is Alvaro Morata the Fernando Torres Chelsea always wanted?
Fernando Torres’ move from Liverpool to Chelsea is often seen as one of the biggest flops in Premier League history. Six years on, the London club might well have amended that mistake at last.
While it may be Diego Costa that Morata has replaced for the Blues, the comparisons with Torres are much stronger. Morata’s demeanour is similar to Torres in that he almost goes unnoticed, he prowls the field, lurking and seeking out a chance, before snapping at it. There are the negatives too of course, and at times Morata like his countryman seems to like a killer instinct or edge about him.
Antonio Conte described Morata as the kind of “polite” young man any father would be happy for his daughter to bring home. Torres, with his innocent face and pin-up looks, passed for similar. Mild-mannered, unassuming, a far cry from Diego Costa.
The Morata and Torres comparisons don’t stop there either, especially for those who played with either of the strikers. Jamie Carragher recently remarked that the build and deceptive use of speed and strength were remarkably similar, while in terms of finishing they possess comparative techniques.
“Watching that, it reminded me of Torres, they’re a similar type of build and they both burst past people,” Carragher said to Sky Sports after Morata hit a hat-trick against Stoke City. There, on the second goal particularly, Morata looked eerily similar to Torres in how he used his power and speed to accelerate away from Stoke's defenders, before unleashing a lethal finish.
The parallels are certainly not the negative type that people often use with Torres, who had a mixed time at Chelsea. His spell there is derided and sneered at, but he still powered in goals and offered assists. While he never hit the incredible highs of his time at Liverpool, he was by no means a pure flop as he is often tagged.
Morata too has encountered criticism in his early days as a Premier League player, such are the high demands on a player who like Torres, arrived at Chelsea as a club record signing. Incredible for Morata it came as early as pre-season, and a Community Shield appearance in which he fluffed his lines from the penalty spot.
"It's the price you have to pay for such a big transfer. It's something that motivates me and makes me work harder every day. I know that twice as many people are looking at me now.” said Morata following the harsh words from the critics.
Since then the 24-year-old is only growing in stature by the game into the Chelsea shirt, and signs of a true Premier League player are there, mixing the guile and technique he possesses with the nous and physical presence. The bullish nature of which Morata marauds around the field filters through to the team, and there are no lost causes when he leads the line.
A key factor could be Morata's relationship with Eden Hazard. The two haven't played with much either since the season began for varying reasons, but they have shown hints of an understanding that could be devastating for opponents. Morata supplied Hazard most recently in the narrow win over Bournemouth, but it's more of things the other way around we should suspect.
Hazard likes to play with his head up and see what is going on around him, and where the movement is. Morata's mobility is a key part of his game in how he opens up space, and in turn, the Belgian could become the chief supplier for the striker. Torres had a similar connection on the field with Steven Gerrard at Liverpool, and should Morata land such a supply line it would be greatly beneficial to his time in England.
Hazard is unequivocal about striking up an understanding too and believes it will only be a matter of time before the results of playing together regularly come to the fore.
“Morata’s a top striker. When good players play together, they don’t need to train two years,” said the 26-year-old attacking midfielder this past week, clearly eyeing up forming on the Premier League's most deadly double acts.
With the right direction from Conte, it could be that Morata, after 18 months or so, has been turned into one the best strikers in the world. He remains young and is always learning. There is also a desire to improve and with a failure to be taken seriously at Real Madrid behind him, an extra incentive to succeed exists.
Even Torres himself feels Morata can make it on his own. The pair, after all, spoke over the summer ahead of the move.
"I talked with him before his move to Chelsea and I told him that I was just a phone call away if he needed advice. Looking at how he has done, it wasn't necessary,” Torres revealed.
With six goals already, 35% of Chelsea's sum total in the Premier League this season, the signs are indeed very promising for the Real Madrid cast off. Indeed, he's even already making history in England's top flight; after scoring and providing an assist in the first league game of the season against Burnley, the 24-year-old repeated the feat in the next game against Everton. Morata, in turn, became the first player in Premier League history to score and assist in each of his first two home games.
Morata’s showing his best side with flashes of vintage Torres there for all to see. Comparisons with the Atletico Madrid forward are by no means a negative thing, and even the bad parts of Torres’ time in England can serve as inspiration for Morata.