Saturday 25 November 2017

Conte hails Morata's big future as he consigns Costa to the past

Blues' new centre-forward a 'complete player' but has room for improvement

'With Costa now gone - initially on a loan with the Fifa-imposed transfer ban preventing him playing for Atletico, who Chelsea face in the Champions League away next Wednesday, until January - the attention has turned even more firmly on Morata.' Photo: PA
'With Costa now gone - initially on a loan with the Fifa-imposed transfer ban preventing him playing for Atletico, who Chelsea face in the Champions League away next Wednesday, until January - the attention has turned even more firmly on Morata.' Photo: PA

Jason Burt

Antonio Conte yesterday described Alvaro Morata as the kind of "polite" young man any father would be happy for his daughter to bring home - hardly a description that would spring to mind when it comes to discussing the striker he has replaced: Diego Costa.

Costa arrived in Madrid yesterday to seal his £57m return to Atletico just as Conte was delivering his pre-match briefing ahead of Chelsea's match at Stoke City today and it was clear that the Blues' head coach was not in any mood to pay tribute to the striker who, he felt, had made life difficult for him.

He said questions on Costa, even when asked which qualities he admired about the forward who was Chelsea's top scorer last season, lacked "respect".

"I repeat now: I'm not interested to talk about the past," Conte said. "I think the past is not important. For every player, for every single player, the past stays there. If you did well in the past, OK."

If Costa is the past for Conte, then Morata - who was signed for approximately the same initial fee and is four years younger - is very much the future.

Indeed, Conte even predicted the 24-year-old was a player he could work with "for the next 10 years".

"I like him because he's a complete player and also he has a lot of room to improve in every situation, tactical, physical, technical aspect, he's very committed, his behaviour is always fantastic," Conte said.

"He is a very polite player, I like this, also I like that he's a good finisher, he 'feels' the goal in every moment. He's very good and understanding which is the best position in the box to receive the ball, to understand where the ball is going."

Asked what exactly he meant by "polite", Conte, a strict disciplinarian, a man schooled in the organised ways of Italian football, explained: "He's a really good guy. It means if you have a daughter you'd be open to have this type of person with your daughter, to marry your daughter. A really good guy, a polite person."

Conte was speaking theoretically, to illustrate a point, but without saying it there was also a pointed contrast surely with Costa who has forced his way out of Chelsea at the third attempt under the head coach and who went absent after refusing to return for pre-season training on July 10.

Morata was always an option for Conte, who had wanted the Spaniard before he turned his attention to Romelu Lukaku, and then went back for him after the Belgian striker chose Manchester United ahead of Chelsea.

Conte had signed Morata for Juventus in 2014 but he quit the club before he could work with him and also tried to bring the player to Chelsea in 2016 before Real Madrid opted to exercise their buy-back clause and keep the player.

With Costa now gone - initially on a loan with the Fifa-imposed transfer ban preventing him playing for Atletico, who Chelsea face in the Champions League away next Wednesday, until January - the attention has turned even more firmly on Morata.

For all his skills - and politeness - there is crucially one Costa-quality that Conte conceded his replacement needs to work on: aggression.

"This is a process for him, when I speak about a lot of room for improvement it also means this aspect, to be (aggressive)," Conte said adding that after not being a regular starter at Juventus or Real Madrid it was now the "right moment" for Morata.

"I think for Alvaro it's the right moment to have this situation, to be the striker in a great team.

"Don't forget with previous experiences with Juventus and Real Madrid he played but not every game, not regularly, for this reason he is at the right age to have this responsibility.

"He is a good player, technically strong, a good leader, but he has a lot of room for improvement. Morata is 24 years old which means you have possibility to work with him for 10 years."

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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