May has been a good month for Juventus, the Italian club clinching their fourth consecutive Serie A title while also securing a place in the finals of both the Coppa Italia and the Champions League.
The latter – their first appearance in European football’s showpiece event since 2003 – was sealed only last week in a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabéu. Four days later, the Bianconeri travelled to another of the continent’s most famous stadia, facing off against old rivals Inter at San Siro.
With Roberto Mancini’s side languishing in mid-table and the visitors no longer needing the points, Max Allegri made no fewer than seven changes to his starting XI for what had been rendered something of a meaningless encounter. The two teams exchanged first half goals with Mauro Icardi and Claudio Marchisio getting their names on the score sheet, and the game looked to be petering out into an uneventful draw when the ball fell to Álvaro Morata at the edge of the box.
Lashing a right-footed effort towards Samir Handanović, the Nerazzurri keeper somehow contrived to spill it over the line, handing Juventus an unlikely winning goal. Running off towards the corner flag, the Spanish striker was soon mobbed by jubilant team-mates, eventually emerging wearing sunglasses and posing for the cameras. Memes discussing his bright future soon flooded the internet, much to the surprise of the 22-year-old who revealed that the celebration was not something that had been pre-planned.
“Someone threw them at me and I put them on,” Morata told reporters after the game, making the news again in the same week as his goal had helped eliminate former club Real Madrid from the Champions League. The two goals took his tally to fourteen in all competitions, and he has firmly established himself in Allegri’s first-choice line-up following his €20 million move last July, blossoming into the deadly finisher he always seemed destined to become.
The man himself is in little doubt as to why he has taken such a leap, believing one of his new team-mates best summed up the education he is receiving in Serie A. “Carlos Tevez often tells me that Italy is like university for strikers,” Morata told La Gazzetta dello Sport earlier this year. “He’s right, as here you become a real player in every aspect. This is a unique opportunity for me.”
“I am truly in love with Juve and want to spend much of my career in the Bianconeri jersey,” he added, but his performances this season has prompted talk of a return to Madrid. This largely centres on the belief that Los Merengues will activate the buy-back option they insisted was part of the deal taking him to Juventus, yet the clause has been widely misreported.
Official documents from the Serie A champions make it abundantly clear it will only be effective “at the end of the 2015-16 season or at the end of the 2016-17 season,” with no stipulation regarding this summer. Unlike this past weekend in Milan, he did not celebrate either of his goals against his old side, calling his strike at the Bernabéu “the most painful I’ve ever scored,” and going on to say that even thinking about a return would be “disrespectful to Juventus.”
He may currently be consumed with ideas of beating Barcelona, but Álvaro Morata’s future is there in black and white for anyone who cares to look beyond the tabloid headlines.
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