Chelsea’s latest win against Manchester City highlighted the fact that Alvaro Morata’s days at Stamford Bridge may be numbered.
The Spaniard was left out of Maurizio Sarri’s final squad to face the Premier League champions on Saturday evening, with Olivier Giroud grabbing a spot on the bench ahead of him.
Sarri opted to used Eden Hazard as a false nine against City, which ultimately proved to be a masterstroke as his team ran out 2-0 winners, thanks to goals from N’Golo Kante and David Luiz.
However, the Italian manger’s final decision to leave out Morata spoke volumes about how much faith he has in the Spaniard, who continues to struggle despite being given ample first-team opportunities at the start of the season.
The 26-year-old moved to Stamford Bridge from the Santiago Bernabeu back in 2017 for a huge £70 million fee – as per The Independent – which reflected his formidable goal-scoring record at Real Madrid (despite the fact he largely played second fiddle to Karim Benzema upfront).
Morata scored 20 goals in 43 appearances for Los Blancos during his second spell at the club between 2014 and 2016 – having initially risen through the club’s ranks at youth level – earning himself a sterling reputation as an expert poacher capable of changing the tide in matches as an impact substitute.
He was similarly effective at Juventus between 2010 and 2014, as he managed to hit 27 goals in 93 games, with almost half of those appearances being cameos off the bench.
Morata’s numbers at Chelsea are far more underwhelming, as for the first time in his career he has had to shoulder the burden of being a team’s number one striker while playing in arguably the most physically demanding league in European football.
The Spain international has scored 22 goals in 68 games across all competitions for the Blues, which represents a modest return considering his price tag and his performances at the start of the 2018-19 campaign do not suggest he will improve anytime soon.
Sarri has already questioned his mentality and physical strength, both of which have let him down massively this year and it now appears that the Chelsea boss has finally run out of patience.
With the January transfer window fast approaching, Sarri has the perfect opportunity to replace Morata with an attacker capable of giving his team the cutting edge they have sorely lacked this season, but who is available in the current market?
CaughtOffside has come up with five possible targets for Chelsea in the new year, all of whom could fill Morata’s boots in a heartbeat.
Mauro Icardi – Inter Milan
This man is probably the most in-demand striker in Europe at the moment, having fully established himself as a lethal goalscorer in Serie A over the past few years, despite playing in a mediocre Inter team.
The Argentine found the net 28 times during 34 league appearances last season, which improved on his tally the year before by four and helped the Nerazzurri regain a spot in the Champions League.
Icardi already has 11 in 17 this term and has looked right at home on the European stage, most notably grabbing a late brace to sink Tottenham at the San Siro back in September.
The 25-year-old is a superb finisher with excellent technical ability and he has an aggressive streak which makes him a nightmare for opposition defenders – essentially making him Morata’s polar opposite.
A huge fee would likely be needed for Chelsea to secure his signature but he could prove to be a great investment, with the best years of his career still very much ahead of him.
Romelu Lukaku – Man United
Up next is a forward who moved to Old Trafford around the same time that Morata arrived at Stamford Bridge and has endured similar problems leading the line for one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
The Belgian hit-man has struggled to prove himself as a consistent goalscorer in the famous red shirt, but on his day, he remains one of the most awkward and physically imposing strikers in the Premier League.
Lukaku played for Chelsea between 2011 and 2014 before being sold by then manager Jose Mourinho, only for the two to link up once again in Manchester three years later.
The 25-year-old has a poor first touch and lacks a certain amount of footballing intelligence upfront, however, he can be unplayable when he’s in the mood.
Lukaku still has plenty of room to improve but given his natural attributes – strength, power and speed – he is still a great option to have in attack and if he were ever to return to Stamford Bridge he would do so with a point to prove.
The prospect of the United star linking up with Eden Hazard at Chelsea is a tantalising one too, given the fact that he has produced his best football playing alongside the mercurial winger for Belgium at international level.