Flattering to deceive

Morata (r) has struggled to find his best form in West London.
Morata (r) has struggled to find his best form in West London. / EFE

  • Álvaro Morata was once one of the hottest strikers in Europe but is Atleti's pursuit just proof that Simeone has a blindspot when it comes to signing forwards?

The headline transfer talk in both Spain and England this January window revolves around Chelsea's Spanish striker Álvaro Morata. But is he worth all this attention?

His suitor is Atlético Madrid's Diego Simeone who I can compare in many ways to the great Sir Alex Ferguson in terms of success and longevity. However, he is as good at judging strikers as the former Manchester United manager was at weighing up goalkeepers.

Morata will be the latest ill-judged signing if it does go through.

The strikers that did succeed for Simeone were those who he inherited or stumbled upon. Sergio Agüero and Radamel Falcao were already at the club when he took over in 2011, as was the lost soul Diego Costa.

In his quest to find a goalscorer he's squandered millions. In fact, his approach is much like speed dating. Mario Mandžukić looked to be the one when he led the scoring with 20 goals in 2014, yet he didn't tick every box for demanding Diego so he was sold to Juventus.

The Mandzukic money was invested in the Colombian Jackson Martínez. The relationship was short and after just fifteen league appearances he was dispatched to China.

Luciano Vietto cost 20 million euros in the summer of 2016 and did score one valuable equaliser against Real Madrid. That was his only Liga goal for Atleti and he's been farmed out on loan to Sevilla, Valencia and now Fulham. It was a similar story for Léo Baptistão who never made it onto the score chart.

Kévin Gameiro did suffer injury after his 28-million-euro move from Sevilla but when fit he was often overlooked by Simeone. Last summer he recruited Nikola Kalinić who has contributed just two goals so far.

Simeone's record is somewhat similar to the great Manchester United manager when it came to finding a successor for Peter Schmeichel. The more famous attempts were Mark Bosnich, Massimo Taibi, Fabien Barthez, Roy Carroll, Ricardo and Tim Howard. He finally struck gold with David de Gea.

We saw in the UK this week how Marcelo Bielsa digs deep with his research, so why does Simeone make mis-judgements with strikers?

If I was doing the due diligence I would be reporting back on a striker who has only scored in four Premier League games this season; he's gone six without a goal. For Spain he has featured in just five of the last eighteen internationals since he peaked in mid-2017. Around the time he was signing for Chelsea he scored five goals in four games for Spain.

If you dig into his career at Real Madrid and Juventus you will discover that most of his appearances were as a substitute. In Serie A he came on eighteen times and started sixteen. He scored in just one of his last six games. At Real Madrid he began the majority of his games on the bench.

So, in conclusion, he is best suited to appearing as an impact substitute. There's nothing wrong with that. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made a career in that role as did David Fairclough in a previous era. Nowadays that role is taken by Paco Alcácer at Borussia Dortmund.

The Morata move may not happen quickly as they have to free up some pegs in the changing room. The limit they can pay in wages (reported as 293 million euros) is maxed out so they have to move a couple of players out first.

If it does happen, are Atlético signing a line leader? I'd suggest, backed by statistics, they are investing in a top-class supersub. He even changed his shirt number at Chelsea from nine to twenty-nine.