Alvaro Morata does not have a nickname. It’s not called a gap. He doesn’t have one either. Neither in the face nor in the CV. The clubs he has played for are of impeccable sound. real Madrid, Juventus, Chelsea, Atlético Madrid. He never played for Sportfreunde Ricklingen or for Spielvereinigung Greuther Fürth, like Niclas Füllkrug, who is now known to many fans in Germany as “Lücke”.
And yet the two men have more in common than meets the eye. As in Germany over the filling jug, Morata is also being debated in Spain. Should he or shouldn’t he start in the last group game? Spain meets Japan there this Thursday (8:00 p.m. CET, in FAZ live ticker for the World Cup and Magenta TV). The Selección still needs one point to qualify for the round of 16.
Morata is certainly an option. He scored the important opening goal against Germany (1-1), and he also scored in the opener against Costa Rica (7-0). Each as a substitute. So he has collected arguments for a commitment from the start. He is very popular with his fellow players. When asked about Morata’s move against Germany, Dani Olmo said: “Before he came, we lost a few balls up front. It got better with him. He was good for us.” The same was said on the German side about Niclas Füllkrug.
Morata is exactly the type of striker that the Spaniards and the Germans otherwise lack in the squad. Tall, 1.89 meters and of strong build. One who can assert himself and lock the ball up front, as they say when a striker shields and protects the playset well. His header is considered passable, just because of his size he would be a trump card against the smaller Japanese that should not be underestimated. Opponent and game seem to be made for him.
Spain’s coach has a real centre-forward Luis Enrique previously dispensed with in his starting XI. He always called on Marco Asensio, Ferran Torres and Dani Olmo, who were ball-safe, agile but physically not so robust, and who are better able to implement the typical short passing game in Spain. In interaction with the technically highly gifted midfielders, Spain was difficult to separate from the ball in the opposing third, but experienced ups and downs when it came to creating chances. That worked very well against Costa Rica and only partially well against Germany.
The time for a change may have come. Probably would then torres or Asensio soft. The Leipzig Olmo has been playing a good tournament so far and is also attracting the attention of other clubs. His hometown club FC Barcelona is still interested in a return.
Recourse to Morata would not be new. At the European Championships a year ago, the 30-year-old attacker was mostly seeded. At that time, his person was accompanied by a heated debate that went beyond the limits of what is reasonable. Many fans talked about Morata’s quality for the national team after a few missed chances. Some of the criticism went below the belt and became personal. Morata even reported death threats.
Only coach Luis Enrique always defended his striker and put him up when indignation was at its height. Morata has not forgotten that. “He believed in me during the hardest time of my career. I felt like I had a whole country against me, it was a very difficult situation, but for me he stood up and defended me against everyone. The only thing I want now is to give him back that trust and everything he has done for me,” says Morata.
His appearances are now less controversial, his goals were always too important. On the way to Qatar he scored a decisive goal against Sweden, which ultimately secured qualification. He also scored in Portugal in September, and his 1-0 win saw Spain advance to the final tournament of the Nations League.
At the World Cup, he is not only in demand as a goalscorer, but also as a leader. Morata is one of the few elders who have tournament experience. Spain’s squad is very young, with only Ghana, USA and Ecuador entering the competition with even younger squads. The World Cup in Qatar is the third major tournament for Alvaro Morata after the European Championships in 2016 and 2021. For the 2018 World Cup he was not nominated by the then coach Julen Lopetegui.
Spain still had a larger selection of center forwards at that time. That has changed, there are almost no alternatives to Morata. That can only be good for him, in Spain’s all-time goalscoring list he drew level with Raúl against Germany. Both have scored 29 goals for Spain so far. In the case of Alvaro Morata, there should be a few more. Ideally against Japan.