With their title hopes hanging by a thread, Juventus turned once more to their Iberian saviour. You know the one: tall, dark hair, a repeat Champions League winner from his time at Real Madrid. A forward who has lifted silverware in Spain, Italy and England and who bangs in the goals for his country at a rate of one in every other game.
He had rescued them once already last week, coming off the bench to break a second-half stalemate at Spezia. On Saturday, he delivered a more remarkable rescue: setting up a goal then scoring two of his own to reverse a 1-0 deficit against top-four rivals Lazio. In the dugout, even Cristiano Ronaldo looked impressed.
Wait, you didn’t think we were talking about Him, did you? The man rescuing Juventus this week cost only €10m, not €100m. Even in a difficult season, heading towards an uncertain conclusion, Álvaro Morata continues to look like a bargain.
He is Serie A’s joint-leading provider of assists, with eight, and has scored seven times despite making only 15 starts. Even those numbers are the tip of the iceberg. Morata struck six times in the Champions League group stage, not including the hat-trick he had disallowed during the home defeat by Barcelona. That was hardly the only time he got scuppered by a replay official.
The Spaniard’s knack for finding himself on the wrong side of marginal decisions became so persistent at one point that fans in Italy rechristened him as Ál(VAR)o Morata. In November, he told El Partidazo de Cope that his tally of disallowed goals was up to 13 for the year. One week later, he had another chalked off during a Nations League game against Germany.
Through all the frustrations, he persisted. Morata was determined to make a success of this second stay in Turin; not that anyone viewed his previous stop, between 2014 and 2016, as a failure. To the contrary, it was his success that made it impossible for him to stay back then: compelling Madrid to take up their buy-back option. The price was fixed, and his value had soared during two seasons in which he helped take Juventus to a Champions League final. Continue reading