On Sunday, it was Álvaro Morata, who for the umpteenth time came on as a substitute to rescue Real Madrid. Morata coming on late and rescuing the Whites was a scene that Real Madrid fans were already accustomed to.
Against Villareal, as Madrid equalized after fighting tooth and nail, they were still in search of one goal to take home the invaluable three points. Arrive Morata; who powerfully headed home Marcelo’s cross to ensure that Real Madrid were still the leaders of La Liga closing this week.
Addressing the Elephant in the room
Karim Benzema has established himself as one of the finest forwards in Europe over the years. The Frenchman is the 5th highest goal scorer in Champions League history. Ahead of him are former Real Madrid forwards Ruud Van Nistelrooy (56) and Raul (71), Barcelona’s Leo Messi (93) and current Real Madrid Talisman; Cristiano Ronaldo (95). It is a short list and Karim (51) seems primed to leapfrog Van Nistelrooy and Raul to make him the 3rd highest goalscorer in Champions League history by the time the French Forward decides to hang up his boots.
Surely a man who is capable of such a feat is no joke and deserves to start whenever fit. However, what if there comes a man who is much younger and has been more prolific in his few limited given opportunities? Does the coach stick with someone who is an established and well proven forward in Europe or does the coach give more opportunities to the younger man who has done better in the few opportunities he has received?
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is currently in this dilemma. On one hand he has in his disposable, Karim Benzema who is not only a lethal finisher of the game but also a goal creator and a provider. On the other hand he has Álvaro Morata, who is young and has an eye for goals every time he steps on the pitch.
Coach Zinedine Zidane and the fans might be content with Morata just being an ‘Impact-Sub’, but it is obvious Morata is not. He is far above an ‘Impact-Sub’. Morata is not Chicharito. The Spaniard is young and oozes of untapped potential.
When Morata first left the Spanish Capital in 2014, he did not have the confidence of the then Real Madrid coach; Carlo Ancelloti. The Don preferred Karim Benzema ahead of Morata and even the departure of Gonzalo Higuain to Napoli did not do much for Morata’s playing time. Morata swapped the Royal White jersey for the Old Lady’s Black and White striped jersey for more opportunities to prove that he is indeed good enough to hang with the world’s finest.
In Morata’s first season, Juventus delivered on their promise of game time to Morata who appeared in over 40 matches despite facing stiff competiton from Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente. Morata crushed the hearts of millions of Madridistas when his goal painfully knocked out Real Madrid of the semi-final of the 2014-15 Champions League.
Morata’s stint with the Old Lady may not have been ground breaking but he pretty much established that he is a an excellent forward who can definitely carry a club of Real Madrid’s magnitude on his shoulders.
Since the reason for Morata leaving Real Madrid in the first place was lack of playing time under Carlo Ancelloti, surely he would return to the Spanish Capital only if he was assured opportunities by Zidane in the first team. However as witnessed this season, Morata on the few occasions that he has started for Real Madrid, he has done so against considerably weaker opponents. He has mostly been limited to substitute appearances in the dying minutes of the matches. Morata has done immensely well in those hard-to-come by opportunities by rescuing Madrid time and time again.
In the home match versus Atheltic Bilbao, Zidane’s men got their noses in-front courtesy of a goal by Karim Benzema in as early as the 7th minute of the game. However no thanks to Madrid’s scruffy defense, Atheltic equalized in the 27th minute and game headed for a draw as the reigning European Champions looked to drop points. Zidane decided to put on birthday boy Morata for Benzema in the 74th minute. And as faith would have it, just 7 minutes away from the end of regulation time, Alvaro Morata out of nowhere connected with Marcelo’s cross to give Los Vikingos the win and three points.
Similar scenes were witnessed in Real Madrid’s 2-1 home win against Sporting CP. Zidane’s men were down 0-1 and needed goals desperately. Ronaldo scored past compatriot Rui Patricio through a free-kick to make it 1-1. With Madrid needing another goal to win the game, it was substitute Morata who came to the rescue of Madrid, again. Morata found himself at the end of a curling cross by James Rodriguez and headed home to win the match for Real Madrid.
Morata did not feature versus Valencia during Madrid’s 1-2 loss at Mestalla. Had Zidane brought him on he might have very well rescued the Whites, again. The coach was smart in believing in him on Sunday when his men needed goals against a Villareal side who played like La Liga leaders.
Zidane has acknowledged Morata’s (and Isco’s) contribution while speaking to the press. The coach said;
They deserve (to play) more for sure. They did very well, they changed the game. In any case we will need every player between now and the end of the season. They are all up for it. It is a long season, but this shows that everyone is ready when they are called upon. With everything that happened today it was vitally important to get the three points.
With his latest heroics as witnessed on Sunday, it will be incredibly difficult for coach Zinedine Zidane to bench the young Spaniard and start Karim Benzema who has been wasteful as of late over the impressive Álvaro Morata.