A tale of two strikers
On loan with an option to buy, Chelsea and Atletico Madrid wishing for instant success before investing long term12 February 2019 | Charlie Laurendi
The winter transfer market has come and gone and the fortunes of forwards Gonzalo Higuaín and Alvaro Morata are once again under the spotlight.
Higuaín has joined his third club in less than seven months, hoping to recapture the form he shared at Napoli with former mentor Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea. Alvaro Morata now finds himself back in Spain with Atlético Madrid after a disappointing spell in England.
For the second time in their respective careers Higuaín replaces the outgoing Morata, this time at Chelsea. Sarri wanted Higuaín to spearhead his Chelsea six months prior but couldn’t come to an arrangement with Juventus. Higuaín was then forced out of Juventus after the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo and reluctantly joined AC Milan on loan but never looked comfortable and jumped at the chance to revive his career in South London.
After seven successful seasons at Real Madrid and three at Napoli where the Neapolitans took him to their heart as they did his compatriot Diego Maradona in the past. Higuaín scored a staggering 36 goals in his final season with the Partenopei but broke their spirit when he joined the Bianconeri after Juventus met Napoli’s £90m buyout clause for the player.
His first season wearing the famous black and white stripes was a tremendous success, winning the League and Cup double, as well as making the final of the Champions League where they were humiliated by Real Madrid. Higuaín’s performance was subpar in the final and yet again he failed to perform on the big stage, as he had done previously in the 2014 World Cup final.
A more than modest return of 16 goals in his second season gave Juventus reason enough to believe his best football was behind him and chose Mario Mandzukic and Paolo Dybala as the preferred playing partners to Ronaldo moving forward. A protracted and complicated transfer to AC Milan followed but didn’t bring the best out of Higuaín.
A 0-4 away loss to Bournemouth was not the start Higuaín and Sarri were hoping for on his EPL debut, but he made amends in his second match against Huddersfield with two goals in the 5-0 win. With a top four finish, fifth round FA Cup tie against Manchester United and the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City to come, Higuaín could prove a masterstroke by Sarri and Chelsea come season’s end.
Much sought after from some of Europe’s biggest clubs, it was Chelsea who stumped up the £60m to prize Morata away from Real Madrid. Chelsea’s game style and team formation meant Morata had to carry the forward line alone with Willian and Eden Hazard in support from behind or down the flanks.
Morata is more suited to playing with a partner, such as Carlos Tevez at Juventus or Karim Benzema at Real Madrid, not being the lone front man with a five man midfield behind him with his back to goal, holding the ball up waiting for his teammates to arrive to support the attack.
Which is why his move to Atlético Madrid could revitalise his career for both club and country. Diego Simeone is a master tactician who gets the best out of the players at his disposal. Currently second in La Liga, Morata’s Atlético Madrid debut started poorly with an away loss to Real Betis, he played a full ninety minutes partnering French World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann up front, relegating Diego Costa to the sidelines.
With the knockout stages of the Champions League coming up, Morata could come back to haunt his former employer Juventus, as players who transfer during the winter market and have played for one club in the group stages of the Champions League are no longer cup tied and forced to watch from the stands for their new club.
There is no doubting the ability of Morata as a proven goal scorer at the highest level with some the world’s best football clubs. What his game needs now is consistency, where he can regain his confidence in front of goal, and what better place to achieve those goals than in the fortress which is Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in front of some of club football’s most passionate fans.
gonzalo higuaín, alvaro morata, chelsea fc, atlético madrid