With a bright substitute performance against Legia Warsaw that included an excellent assist, a smart finish, and plenty of running and energy, Alvaro Morata continues to stake his claim as a more regular starter in Zinedine Zidane’s team.
Sent on in the 64th minute, Morata only took four minutes to help Real Madrid extend their lead, as he used his pace to beat his marker before delivering a perfectly flighted cross to the back post for Lucas Vazquez to volley home.
Just over 15 minutes later, he ran onto a through pass from Cristiano Ronaldo before opening up his body as if shaping to shoot to the far post, only to bury the ball past the goalkeeper’s near side.
That strike and the assist mean that the 23-year-old has been directly involved in three Real Madrid goals in only 54 minutes of Champions League action.
Numbers aside, it is the general nature of Morata’s performances that have caught the eye.
Against Legia Warsaw, he showcased speed, confident finishing and the kind of hunger and effort that deem him worthy of more than the paltry four starts he has enjoyed so far this campaign.
An able accomplice for Ronaldo
The Spain international’s case for more starts is strengthened by his versatility. Like his teammate and competitor Karim Benzema, Morata is not a one-dimensional player.
While not as technically gifted as the Frenchman, Morata has plenty of pace to burn. If Benzema is a striker who dreams of being a playmaker, Morata is a forward with fantasies of being a flying winger.
Against Legia Warsaw, the former Juventus man spent much of his time on the left wing hassling and harrying defenders and using his acceleration to open up passing and crossing opportunities, while Ronaldo lurked in a more central position.
Given Ronaldo’s natural tendency to drift into central areas, particularly when he’s desperate to get on the scoresheet, Morata’s ability to shift wide enables him to switch positions with the Portuguese man.
While Benzema’s vision and link-up play allow Ronaldo to exploit spaces to his advantage, Morata’s pace allows the Portuguese star to spend longer periods of time in central positions.
By starting Morata ahead of Benzema a little more often, especially against weaker opposition, Zidane would be able to kill two birds with one stone by boosting the Spaniard’s confidence while keeping Benzema fresh and motivated.
Both players would be better off for it.