Serie A

How Alvaro Morata's renaissance at Juventus helped the struggling Old Lady

Juventus only re-signed Morata after a deal for Edin Dzeko collapsed, but the striker has hit the ground running for the club in his second stint.

8:00am on Sunday 3rd January 2021
Emmet Gates

It was the most unlikely of comebacks. Juventus had been in the market for a striker all throughout the last transfer window, with Gonzalo Higuain shipped off to America.

The club had targeted Edin Dzeko as the No.1 objective for much of the window, but they also had a line of enquiry open for Luis Suarez (hence the Italian passport fiasco in Perugia).

Dzeko had agreed to join Juve, a fee of around €15m had also been ironed out between the club and Roma. However, Roma wouldn't release Dzeko until they had secured Arkadiusz Milik from Napoli.

As fate would have it, the Pole's issues with the southern club blocked everything: Milik stayed where he was, as did Dzeko. At the same time, the Suarez deal also withered as he wouldn't have gained his passport in time to be registered to play.

So Juve had no choice but to look elsewhere.

With two weeks of the window left remaining, they went back to the past and re-signed Alvaro Morata from Atletico Madrid.

Eyebrows were raised. Morata is a completely different striker to Dzeko: more speed but less physical; more technical and less an aerial threat. Did the club make a mistake?

Any fears from fans over the re-signing of Morata were quickly dispelled, as the striker hit the ground running and hasn't looked back.

He netted on his second league start for the club, away to Crotone. He also hit a brace against Dynamo Kiev on his second Champions League debut. In fact, Morata's stunning form early in the season kept Juventus afloat.

Cristiano Ronaldo had been forced to miss several games due to testing positive for Covid, and Morata picked up the slack. The Spaniard scored three and provided the same number of assists in his first six games in Serie A, and had a handful of goals narrowly disallowed for VAR calls.

He also finished the Champions League group stages with a total of six goals, and is joint-top scorer in the tournament.

As the Italian game finished for the Christmas break, Morata stands on 10 goals from 17 games for the Bianconeri, in addition to his seven assists. He and Ronaldo have struck up a fruitful relationship in front of goal, as Pirlo coupled them together due to their prolificness.

28 yrs - ST (C) - Juventus
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Morata's form has been so lethal that Paulo Dybala has been pushed to the margins of the starting XI. Morata undoubtedly fits Pirlo's side better than the Argentine, who again has been linked with a move away from Turin.

Pirlo, who played alongside Morata in his final season at Juve in 2014/15, believes that Morata's success in Turin is all down to his mentality.

“Morata is a strong player, but he just needed consistency and confidence," Pirlo told the Italian media in late November. "If he’s good mentally then he can do anything, he can become one of the best strikers around. If he trains well and is in good shape, playing and scoring, he’s a fundamental player not just for Juventus but also for his national team. We are working to put him in the best condition possible."

Watching Morata at Chelsea and then later at Atletico Madrid, you got the sense that mentally, he wasn't there. This was very much the case at the former club, where an array of previous world class strikers had struggled to fit in at Stamford Bridge.

Morata seemed ill-suited to Chelsea, as he did in Cholo Simeone's rough-and-tumble side. Yet Morata still scored goals: 16 goals in two Premier League seasons followed 18 strikes in the same space of time for Atleti.

If Juventus are just about in the title race this season, it's thanks to him. As Pirlo learns on the job - a consequence of clubs being afforded no pre-season thanks to the pandemic - Juve have stumbled. The new coach is trying to work out his best XI, but Morata's renaissance has insured that this season could still be a winning one for the 2006 World Cup winner.

Juve have the option to make the move permanent at the end of the season, or keep him at the club for a further season on loan. At the moment, it's hard not to see the club retaining his services.

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