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Jul 19, 2014

Real could regret Alvaro Morata sale

Alvaro Morata's move to Juventus may go somewhat under the radar compared with Real Madrid's other transfer deals this summer, but the sale of a youngster once dubbed as the next Raul could prove to be the most interesting of the lot.

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The 21-year-old passed his medical in Turin on Saturday after the clubs agreed on a reported 18 million euro fee. The move had been on hold following Antonio Conte's resignation as manager, but Juve pushed through with the transfer after Premier League duo Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur had also been credited with interest.

While most Madrid eyes will be on Toni Kroos, James Rodriguez and Keylor Navas, as well as the possible departures of Angel Di Maria and Sami Khedira, Los Blancos' decision to let go of a player who was only recently their "Golden Boy" will come under scrutiny. The fact that few Madridistas are up in arms over the transfer should tell its own story, however.

Coming through the Madrid ranks, albeit after spells at Atletico Madrid and Getafe, Morata had been the club's, and the supporters', great hope. He scored for fun throughout the youth levels and with Castilla, the club's second team, and he showed plenty of signs that he could cut it at the highest level following his promotion to the first team.

Three-and-a-half years and three Madrid managers after making his first-team debut in a 3-1 victory at Real Zaragoza, Morata has decided enough is enough. A failure to grab the trust of Manuel Pellegrini, Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti for a regular starting role has led to the Spanish under-21 international wanting a move elsewhere in search of weekly match action -- and the chance to fulfil his potential.

Each campaign at the Bernabeu had brought new hope. Even as recently as last season, the Madrid support had pushed for Morata to get a starting role. Karim Benzema, without the top-level competition of Gonzalo Higuain following his sale to Napoli, had struggled to make an impact in the early stages of the season, and Morata was being called upon. Madrid had invested in youth, particularly from Spain, last summer with Asier Illarramendi, Dani Carvajal and Isco among the arrivals. A young, Spanish team for the future that could be led by Morata.

As it turned out, Ancelotti stuck with the Frenchman. It was a decision that ultimately worked out with Benzema scoring 17 league goals and five in Europe as Madrid claimed La Decima and the Copa del Rey. Morata pitched in with eight league goals and one in Europe, but 24 of his 28 appearances came from the bench. Ancelotti was not in the mood for rotation, and it would be understandable if Morata did not expect that to change a year on.

Any injury to Benzema would have opened the door for Morata, but another obstacle came to stand in his way last season -- that of Jese Rodriguez. Morata had spent years trying to impress in the first team, but Jese's progression was rapid. He surpassed Morata as the youngster of choice at the Bernabeu, both with the coaching staff and fans, and although the Las Palmas youngster suffered an injury that cut short his superb debut first-team campaign, his success was probably the final nail in Morata's coffin in the Spanish capital.

It's a shame that Madrid will not fully get to see the qualities Morata has to offer after investing so much time in him. As usual with deals involving young players leaving the club, Los Blancos are reported to have included a buy-back option for the player, but those reports suggest it is upward of 30 million euros, much higher than the option that saw full-back Carvajal move back to Madrid following a spell in Germany with Bayer Leverkusen.

Morata did not have a problem in front of goal. Not with Madrid when called upon, and not with the Spanish under-21 squad where he found the net on a regular basis. What he did have a problem with was getting regular game time to show what he could do week in, week out. A like-for-like move to Juventus he will not want, Morata will be expecting more time out on the pitch to reach the levels many hoped he would at the Bernabeu.

A comparison to club legend Raul did not do Morata any favours. At a club that already piles a weight of expectation onto shoulders, the weight of being compared to one of the greatest strikers in Madrid's history cannot have helped. There may have been similarities in his natural sniff of a goal, but Morata needed to be his own player.

He will face more stiff competition in the shape of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente at Juventus. The attacking pair scored 35 goals between them last season to help Juve to the Serie A title, and they will expect to start the majority of matches next season. Morata will offer a different threat, however, and could complement the duo well as new manager Massimiliano Allegri looks for success in Europe, as well as domestically this term.

At 18 million euros, Morata has become the most profitable youth product in Madrid's history, leaving the club direct, but that fee could well be a snip for Juventus in today's booming market. That offer seems about right for all parties, but Los Blancos' fans will be watching Juve with a keen eye next season, no doubt hoping the youngster fulfils his potential and makes his former employers regret not giving him more of a chance. He certainly has the ability to do just that.