There’s two minutes of stoppage time remaining. James Rodriguez lifts his head up and bends a pinpoint cross towards the Sporting CP penalty spot. Alvaro Morata has already peeled off his man and hangs, mid-air, seemingly for a few seconds, as he cocks his neck like a gun and fires a bullet header past Rui Patricio’s limp right hand.
That header gave Real a winning start to their Undecima defence, and maintained their winning start to the 2016/2017 campaign.
The Spanish forward had been proving the decision to bring him back to Madrid was a good one, whilst Karim Benzema recovered from injury.
But then the Frenchman returned to full fitness, and Zinedine Zidane gave his countryman the nod against Espanyol, with great reward, as Benzema doubled Real’s advantage and killed the game off.
So now both are fit, who should lead the Whites’ forward line? Is Boss Zinedine Zidane right to start the Frenchman ahead of the industrious Spaniard?
You know both of their back-stories, and while they both bring different key attributes to the side, they are also both copping a lot of criticism for lacking something the other may have.
The arguments I’ve seen include; the Frenchman does not possess Morata’s work rate, or that the Spaniard’s finishing abilities are not at the same level as Benzema’s. Why not flip those arguments? Both are more than capable of adding these perceived weaknesses to their game.
Football is a team game, but, your strikers are the most valuable commodities. Look across world football- there are maybe three/ four world class forwards aside from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, and I would put Benzema up there- when in-form.
Morata will get there. He’s been labelled awkward, an unnatural finisher, but he is destined to reach the top of the game.
Real Madrid have struggled to find a balance with two strikers that both compliment each other, but also give the side a different outlet when plan A isn’t working. In 2011/2012 (the last time Real won La Liga), both Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain scored 20+ goals domestically.
Then in 2013, Gonzalo Higuain was allowed to leave, along with Jose Callejon, as the club sought to meet Financial Fair Play regulations and fund a record-breaking move for Gareth Bale.
The same occurred in 2014 with the big-money signing of James Rodriguez. This time, Morata was allowed to leave to raise some cash, and Real brought in Javier Hernandez on loan from Manchester United to bolster their striking options.
Bringing Morata back was very astute from the club. He has only just turned 24, and has bags of talent. At the biggest club in the world, he won’t expect to start every game just yet, but rotation that Zidane has employed since the start of the season has been perfect in my view.
As we saw on Wednesday away to Legia Warsaw, starting both of them didn’t have the desired effect. But systematically, the formation failed due to having to afford Ronaldo greater attacking license. Perhaps this is a plan ‘C’ Zidane can look into.
Back to Liga, Benzema has four goals and Morata has bagged three so far, and I cannot wait to see how the dynamic of the two strikers in rotation pans out for Real. Rather than having to be on one side-or-the-other, let’s appreciate what dimensions both attackers bring to the team.
I guarantee that defenders across the globe would rather not face either of them- and that’s why they are both at Real Madrid.
And if both of them continue to produce the goods, Real will take some stopping both domestically and in Europe.