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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

Chelsea should show the same patience with Alvaro Morata as they did with Didier Drogba

Spanish striker started his debut season strongly before tailing off, but the Premier League club could regret discarding him so quickly

Alvaro Morata, right, is taking part in Chelsea's pre-season. Getty Images
Alvaro Morata, right, is taking part in Chelsea's pre-season. Getty Images

In October last year, three months after completing a club record move to Chelsea from Real Madrid, Alvaro Morata gave an interview where he was forced to clarify comments from a previous news story.

The original interview quoted Morata as saying he did not see himself at Chelsea "for very long", to which the Spanish striker responded by insisting it was a "communication problem" and that he would happily sign a 10-year contract with the Premier League club.

But it was the next part that remains pertinent when Morata said: "I need to score many goals otherwise Chelsea will buy another player. It’s normal."

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At the time, he didn't have all that much to worry about. Morata had a hand in 10 goals for Chelsea by October 31 - seven goals, three assists - in all competitions.

The day after that second interview was published, the former Juventus forward scored the winner against Manchester United and grabbed a goal and an assist in a 4-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion.

Granted, those goals ended a six-game drought, but overall the signs were encouraging that Chelsea had put £60 million (Dh289.2m) to good use, particularly when Morata was tasked with filling the void left by Diego Costa - the snarling, bruising striker who had fired the club to two Premier League titles in three years.

Then of course, that bright start gave way to a rather bleak remainder of the campaign: after nine goals in his first 15 games, Morata only managed six in his next 24 appearances.

Such was Morata's alarming dip in form it has led to inevitable speculation surrounding his Chelsea future. With Maurizio Sarri installed as the new manager to replace Antonio Conte, the former Napoli coach is reportedly keen to recruit a new frontman, with Gonzalo Higuain the name taking up plenty of column inches.

Higuain is undoubtedly a top-level striker, who in his only season under Sarri in Naples scored a record-equalling 36 Serie A goals. But since securing a then-league record move to Juventus, the Argentine's returns have got progressively worse: 24 Serie A goals in 2016/17 was followed by 16 goals last season.

Add in the fact that he is now the wrong side of 30 and is notorious for his fitness indiscipline and it seems a strange move on Chelsea's part.

Put simply, discarding Morata after one season would be a mistake. The decrease in his goal-scoring efficiency last season may be a cause for concern, but hamstring and back injuries certainly played their part in disrupting the Spaniard's progress.

Then there was the constant instability and negativity swirling around the club in Conte's second season that sapped the confidence and momentum of more players than just Morata.

Despite the travails of the past few months, the Spain international remains a classy operator, and Chelsea needn't look too far into their own past to see why a striker shouldn't be written off after one season.

Didier Drogba was considered little more than a battering ram after his debut year at Stamford Bridge, and was deemed short of the quality required to lead a team with designs on Premier League domination.

The Ivorian's second season was an improvement, but not significantly enough to convert the critics. Jose Mourinho, then Chelsea's manager, kept faith and was rewarded in spectacular style as Drogba went on to established himself as one of the finest strikers in Premier League history.

For a club that has been quickly - and surely regrettably - dismissive of recent talents such as Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, and Mohamed Salah, Chelsea might be wise to give Morata a chance to build on his debut year - a year in which we mustn't forget involved moving to a new country, adjusting to a new climate and learning a new language.

At 25, Morata should be entering his peak years, and if Chelsea are to move the Spaniard on, it could be another decision they live to regret.