After missing out on Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is believed to have turned his attentions to 24-year-old Alvaro Morata in his search for a top-class striker.
The Blues had been favourites to re-sign Lukaku this summer before Everton accepted a bid of £75 million for the Belgian international from Manchester United. And, with Diego Costa’s future at Stamford Bridge still uncertain, Conte has been forced to look elsewhere.
United’s swoop for Lukaku came as something of a surprise, considering how heavily they had been linked with Morata. Now, however, it seems his destination might still be the Premier League – but West London, not Manchester.
A report in Spanish newspaper AS claims Chelsea are poised to launch a bid of around £70 million for Morata, who scored 15 goals in 26 La Liga appearances last season, despite being overlooked by Zinedine Zidane for the Champions League final victory over Juventus.
Although he has never managed Morata, Conte is known to be an admirer, having masterminded his move from Real to Juventus in 2014. The Spain forward provides a clinical nature in front of goal but is more than just a typical number nine.
He is adept at holding up the ball and also brings an aerial threat. There are similarities to Costa, the incumbent, but with less of a physical presence. Crucially though, Morata doesn’t come with the baggage that Costa does, which has infuriated Conte.
There is always an element of risk when signing a foreigner with no experience of the Premier League. Some find it difficult to adapt to the English game. Lukaku, of course, knows the Premier League inside out and this made him a wanted man for both Manchester United and Chelsea.
He would have suited the brand of football Conte prefers, very much a like-for-like replacement for Costa. Lukaku has scored regularly for Everton and, on his day, can be almost unplayable. On the other hand, there are times when he can look disinterested and be completely ineffective.
United will feel Lukaku offers better value than Morata because there will be a smaller period of transition. But Morata is a fine player who has has the capabilities to become one of the top strikers in Europe. His game-time has been limited at Madrid due to the form of Karim Benzema, but when he has been given an opportunity he has flourished.
Under the tutelage of Conte, the reigning Premier League champions could be the perfect club for him.