Forget the Alvaro Morata versus Romelu Lukaku talk, the Chelsea and Man United players behind them matter more

Both players are excellent in their own right and the minute differences between them equate to whether you’d prefer to drive around in a Ferrari or a Porsche.

Chris Bailey
by Chris Bailey
21st July 2017

article:21st July 2017

Thanks for nothing, Chelsea. We must all live with the consequences of what you have done.

The signing of Alvaro Morata heralds the latest facile and pointless debate of our time, up there with Ronaldo versus Messi, Playstation or Xbox or whether to pour the milk in first or last when making a cup of tea.


Even before the Twitter droves implored Manchester United to ‘announce Lukaku’, Red Rom was being compared with the devil who could have been. Up popped shiny graphics comparing goals per minute, height, weight, BMI, star signs, which phase of the moon both players were born under (Morata’s waning crescent to Romelu Lukaku’s last quarter, if either can play the whole 90 surely it is the big Belgian).

It is of course a compelling storyline. United would have ended up with Morata if Chelsea had not been so slow to react on Lukaku, and they are to be the spearheads of their new teams.

And while of all of these factoids make for an interesting natter next week in front of office water coolers, ‘Morkaku’ – sport’s new celebrity relationship – is set to get very boring, very quickly.

Let’s instead try what the Hollywood types call a conscious uncoupling.

Lukaku is strong, tall, skilful, scores a lot of goals, is young, important to his country and has already played more than 200 club games in his career.

Morata is strong, tall, skilful, scores a lot of goals, is young, important to his country and has already played more than 200 club games in his career.

Quibbles can be made – and oh my how they have – over Lukaku’s record against ‘big’ teams, and whether Morata will adapt to the Premier League. But all of this is useless conjecture.

Both players are excellent in their own right and the minute differences between them equate to whether you’d prefer to drive around in a Ferrari or a Porsche. Indeed, either of those two can quickly help you get to where you want to go.

The only factors that now matter are the people behind the steering wheel: Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte.

United and Chelsea both had imperfect attacks last season, and whether their two new No9s are upgrades on the ones that went before will be the most fascinating element of the next campaign.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Diego Costa scored 37 league goals between them last year, yet neither club were completely happy with their contributions.

United did not have a choice in having to replace an injured Ibrahimovic, but were likely to pounce for a new striker regardless. The Swede conjured up many magical moments, yet some of his hold-up and link-up play with his wide forwards bordered on the dismal at times.

Then there is Costa, who despite fluctuating in and out of form, struck up a fine partnership with the individually minded Eden Hazard last season. One text message from Conte later and he’s out of the picture.

But if Lukaku and Morata are to hugely boost their respective sides, the big question marks lie instead with their team-mates.

Chelsea have taken a far larger gamble in midfield by seemingly ridding themselves of Nemanja Matic in order to accommodate Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco.

The thought process is that the ground-guzzling Bakayoko can do much of the heavy lifting in midfield to give N’Golo Kante a little more freedom to roam forward, though it is some leap to think Kante can provide a creative spark on such scant – if promising – evidence thus far. Bakayoko, don’t forget, only came of age last year for Monaco, having played just 23 times the season before.

Then over at United there is the problem of releasing Paul Pogba, who is either too ill-disciplined or too talented – it’s hard to discern which – to be shackled in a midfield two. With Mourinho so far frustrated in his efforts to sign a Matic or Eric Dier, an imbalance may persist in the middle.

So whether Morata and Lukaku flourish or fail in their first seasons, beware those who sell you a story of two strikers. The players behind them are as big a part of the scripts that Conte and Mourinho are writing.


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