Alvaro Morata left Real Madrid on a loan spell with Juventus in 2014 and returned 2 years later, fully ready for the great task at Los Blancos. The young player who suddenly transformed into a man, got a chance to represent Spain at the European Champions and performed awesomely well.
Image: Alvaro Morata (Source: Marca).
While competing at Euros 2016, coaches from big clubs contacted him for signatures but surprisingly, he turned them down for Madrid after Zinedine Zidane realized he’s a rare gem.
So far, so good, Morata hasn’t disappointed at Madrid. Here’s a transcript of his latest interview with Marca:
You wore a T-shirt on Monday which said ‘I have a dream’ – what dreams are they?
“I have many. To be here and win something with the national side is one of them, because I’ve been fortunate to win many things. But to do it with Spain is the most beautiful thing that can happen as a player. I know it’s very difficult, all those of us here know that, but I think we have the players and quality to achieve it.”
You’ve won the Champions League, titles in Italy, at Under-21 level and represented Spain at Euro 2016 – all by the age of 23. Do you reflect on it much?
“It all happens very quickly and you have to stop to think, to enjoy occasionally, because it goes very fast. It can be hard to reflect, you get caught up in matches, trips – it is a very fast-paced life. You have to [sometimes] slow down and enjoy.
“If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be here, I probably would not believed you. There are many factors; luck, work, injuries. In the end, things happen so you have to stop, enjoy it and think because it is very difficult.”
How are you with Julen Lopetegui?
“Very good, very good. I’ve known Julen for a long time now and I think it is very important that he became the new coach. A coach that did not have the same ambition as him would not have taken charge of this national side.
“It demonstrates the ambition you have, your personality. He is on the same page as the players, which is a very difficult situation for people coming from outside. We came to a team that was world champions and won the European Championship twice, and we face pressure that will be difficult when things start to go badly. But it’s like I’ve said many times, I believe in this team and these players. It’s true that they are legends of our game but others come through.
“The biggest example is Thiago. He has been injured, he deserved to be in the squad and is now here. He is a player who shares the same style of those who are no longer with us. I think that is a reason to remain confident.”
It was strange being here and not seeing Iker Casillas?
“It is very strange, yes, but in training I do not think. You notice it more during meals and free time. We all miss him a lot. I think the whole of Spain will find it strange because for many years we were used to seeing Iker.”
I imagine that you only have words of thanks for Del Bosque.
“Yes, of course. He trusted me when things were not going so well. He followed my development. He gave me every possible opportunity and I played the European Championship. I am grateful and so are all Spaniards, because he is the coach that made us world champions.”
Was Euro 2016 one to be enjoyed or endured?
“Generally it was one to enjoy but there were moments of tension such as when we had not scored many in the opening game, which we won narrowly. When I scored my first goal [against Turkey], it took the pressure off. Being in a good squad like Spain’s you can always enjoy yourself – but I still feel we could have achieved much more in the European Championship.”
There was plenty of talk about your future, even during the Euros – does it already feel quieter after a summer of uncertainty?
“Yes, it has been a crazy summer in that respect. It was hard for me to be in a European Championship and have five or six calls on the phone from different places every day. I was quite focused and quite professional for the situation in which I found myself.”
When you say different places, do you mean different teams?
“Yes, teams, coaches, people. Never would I have expected to go through this. When I completed the buy-back to Real Madrid and I returned to the club that I belong, there were still teams that remained determined to sign me. I’m still freaking out because I have not scored 20 goals in any year. I think I have much more to achieve.”
Are you happy now?
“Yes, of course I am. If I’m not happy playing a starring role for Madrid and being in the national side… I’d best not do the lottery (laughs). I can not be any more [happy]. Things happen, everyone has their time but I will have to work hard to continue in Madrid and in the national side and I’m willing to do that.”
Why did you decide to stay in Madrid?
“Because, in the end, I know that Madrid is the team most likely to win titles in both Spain and Europe. Also because deep down I think if I had not had this year in Madrid, I would have regretted it all my life.”
Do you feel it is the chance of a lifetime?
“Yes, of course. At one point, if I could go through the idea of no longer being at Madrid, it would have been because the club did not trust me. If I had left, I don’t think I would forgive myself.”
How do you respond to hearing that the BBC is immovable?
“You’re talking about three of the best strikers in the world and I think you can also fight [for a place]. In a team, all players are important and in the end they do not always play in many games, due to injuries, suspensions, etc. We must be prepared because you can get your time in any game, at any minute. it’s what happens.”
From the outside it feels there’s additional pressure to score. Did the Celta Vigo goal lift some of that burden?
“No, you cannot listen the feeling from outside because any striker who doesn’t score won’t leave the f*****g house. I think I had a good game in San Sebastian and I could have had two goals against Celta, but football can be cruel. I had a much better game in the Anoeta than against Celta but I went with a goal at home in the latter. Nobody remembers how it was [scored], but that you got it. This is what counts. But I’m very quiet, I know that I can contribute much more than goals. There are more players than the BBC who can score.”
What does Zinedine Zidane say to you?
“He speaks a lot with me, I’m incredibly happy because we talk a lot. Almost every day he is speaking to me and giving me advice before every game for 10-15 minutes, telling me what he wants from me. We communicate a lot and It makes me feel very important, which is what you need to perform.
“That’s why I say that every time I care less about people’s criticism. There will always be one. If you criticise Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, then they will criticise me. In the end, you have to listen to as little as possible, whether good or bad, and try to work. If the coach is pleased with me and the club also, that is all that counts.
Is there more pressure at Real Madrid than Juventus?
“Yes, of course. Here, every time you miscontrol or something happens that people don’t like, it is noticed. They notice that you have not done well and smell a rat, which cannot happen again. But it was never like that when I left Madrid. I’ve played in big games; European Championships, a Champions League final. It may seem like there’s a lot of pressure on me but there isn’t. Very few people know that I have to play with my foot almost asleep. That makes you less happy. From the outside everything may look different but I’m happy. It’s true that I have to start smiling more on the pitch and look like I’m less…”
“Yes. Less stressed. Many people have told me that it is how I looked when I had left the Madrid but it has nothing to do with that. I’ve had fitness problems, but had to play because it was my time.”
What changed in Italy?
“Everything. In football, physically, tactically, doing things with a purpose. But I still have much to learn.”
What did you learn from the likes of Buffon, Chiellini and Pirlo that you would not have learned in Madrid?
“What caught my attention is how they treated people with people. I had never in my life seen the Juve goalkeeper, a captain of his country, stay behind to sign autographs until everyone had gone home.
“Pirlo had the ability to be heard in front of everyone, without attracting attention. He was a super quiet guy but when he started talking he was a real leader. And for a guy who appears like a beast on the pitch, Chiellini will offer you a piece of bread off it and help you in everything. It was an unforgettable experience. I am sad I did not return but I went to fulfill my dream [back to Madrid]. I left many colleagues and friends and people that loved me a lot there.”