The one-time academy player’s arrival has drawn mixed reviews and could have a knock-on effect on several players.
Atlético Madrid announced Álvaro Morata’s signing from Chelsea earlier this week on an 18-month loan deal. Despite his youth spell with Atlético and a statement that rejoining the club was a “dream come true,” Morata’s signing has received mixed reviews from the mattress maker faithful. Many fans protested the signing after the striker spent the bulk of his career with crosstown rivals Real Madrid.
The team had already been preparing for Morata’s arrival with the loan of winger Gelson Martins to Monaco on Jan. 27. However, Gelson rarely factored into Diego Simeone’s first team, only starting one match in LaLiga. The club also sold full back Jonny to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Thursday.
Morata has had an impressive career, scoring over 50 goals for Real Madrid, Juventus and Chelsea and winning some of the biggest trophies in football. However, he should have to show Simeone something extraordinary both on the training pitch and in games to supplant other, more well-established players.
Morata’s signing will be felt the most at Atletico’s second striker position, where Nikola Kalinić and Ángel Correa have featured in recent matches.
The move could soon relegate Correa to the bench despite his strong performances this season. The team continues to excel in matches in which Correa starts, although the clip now is not as impressive as it was earlier in the season. Atlético have five wins and two draws in the last seven matches in which Correa has played at least 45 minutes.
Even still, the buzz around the loan has made it seem as if Morata will win the second forward position over Correa and join Antoine Griezmann up top. Correa will likely be given a chance to play on the right-hand side in the 4-4-2 or even join a three-striker, 4-3-3 partnership with Morata and Griezmann.
The bigger question is what will happen when Diego Costa returns to the team.
Costa is reportedly eyeing the team’s Champions League match against Juventus on Feb. 20 as a return date. The competition between Spain internationals Morata and Costa would certainly be fierce and it is hard to say who would come out on top with so many variables in play. Costa’s fitness, Morata’s ability to finish and even pressure from Correa and Kalinić are all factors.
Again, Simeone could even move to a 4-3-3 in order to accommodate Griezmann, Morata and Costa in the forward roles.
Whatever the Argentine manager’s decision, Atlético are destined for a fascinating second half. With three of the top strikers in the world potentially fit by Feb. 20, the sky is truly the limit.