Why Andrea Pirlo Settled for Alvaro Morata in Striker Hunt

Alvaro Morata
Juventus signing Alvaro Morata arriving for his medical in Turin | Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

Since 2014, a certain Alvaro Morata has yielded £207m - if certain loan deals are made permanent - in transfer fees.

That same Alvaro Morata - in that time frame - has yielded a mere 58 league goals. But Europe's elite simply can't get enough of the greasy-haired Spaniard.

Following a fateful spell at Chelsea and rather unforgettable stint at Atletico Madrid - late Anfield antics aside - Morata returns to a familiar destination ahead of the 2020/21 season, joining Juventus on a season-long loan ahead of a potential €45m permanent move next summer.

Alvaro Morata
Morata distinctly struggled for confidence during his time at Chelsea | Clive Rose/Getty Images

Turin is the city in which Morata made his name. Despite boasting a pretty tame goalscoring record in Serie A during his maiden spell at Juve, the Spaniard's four goals in the Champions League knockout-stages - including one in each leg of the Bianconeri's semi-final triumph over Real Madrid - during the 2014/15 campaign amid Juve's progression to the final saw the then 22-year-old emerge as one of Europe's hottest properties.

Morata even levelled things up in the final before Barcelona's imperious 'MSN' triumvirate spearheaded an eventual 3-1 victory for the Catalans in what was Andrea Pirlo's final game in Bianconeri colours.

But now, Alvarito's back in town, with the aforementioned Pirlo pulling the strings in Turin.

Juventus were keen to bring in a striker this summer following the departure of Gonzalo Higuain. The club were relentlessly linked with Roma veteran Edin Dzeko and Barcelona hitman before settling for a more familiar face.

Alvaro Morata, Andrea Pirlo
The Spaniard played with manager Andrea Pirlo during his first spell in Turin | Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Sure, some might laugh in the face of Il Maestro for signing Morata over a man who once scored 29 goals in the same division and one of the finest number nines of his generation, but this is actually a move which makes a whole lot of sense.

Although Pirlo will likely be flexible with formations - a 3-5-2, on paper, morphed into became 3-2-5 in possession and 4-4-2 during periods of sustained Sampdoria possession on his coaching debut - he nonetheless appears to be a fan of the dynamic established between Cristiano Ronaldo and Dejan Kulusevksi, who lined up as his front pairing against Samp.

While the young Swede played almost as an inside forward tasked with not only dropping between the lines to receive driven passes from Leanardo Bonucci, but doggedly running the right channel too, Ronaldo's function was to provide depth to the Juve attack and pin the Sampdoria defence. Thus, opening up spaces for Kulusevksi and Aaron Ramsey to operate between the visitors' midfield and defence, while Ronaldo himself also offered a source of penetration in behind.

The Portuguese icon's goal in the comfortable 3-0 victory came after being fed in behind by Ramsey - who picked up possession, you guessed it, between the lines - and he also had effort in the first half which crashed off the bar after once again being slipped in by the Welshman amid a swift transition.

Juve's strike duo were on the scoresheet on Pirlo's coaching bow | MIGUEL MEDINA/Getty Images

These were two sequences which epitomised a pair of Pirlo's key principles: Rifinitura (between the lines) and Profondita (the space in behind).

Nevertheless, while Paulo Dybala is poised to play a similar role to Kulusevski once he returns to action, Morata's function will likely be identical to Ronaldo's. Although, the 27-year-old's versatility means he has the capacity to play various roles in Pirlo's Cruyff-influenced system at Juventus, and to get the best out of him, the Italian should grant him some freedom to drift into wide areas.

Morata isn't merely a runner either. He also boasts a target man profile which enables him to hold the ball up well and combine with teammates due to his technical prowess.

Overall, though, the role that the Spaniard will likely be tasked with is one that simply couldn't be performed by other striker targets Dzeko and Suarez, which is why Pirlo's wound up with his former teammate.

Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez has now joined Atletico Madrid after his move to Juve fell through | David Ramos/Getty Images

The Bosnian's a pure target man who excels playing with his back to goal, while Suarez's athletic decline after undergoing knee surgery this year has been stark. The Uruguayan just isn't the rampaging vampire he once was, and it's no surprise that Ronald Koeman was keen to get him off Barcelona's book amid their financial woes.

Suarez may still be prolific and certainly capable of producing individual moments of vintage brilliance, but that's not what Pirlo's looking for.

This is all about harmony. Il Maestro desires a forward capable of contributing to his "total and collective" approach and someone who fits in with his principles.

That's why Alvaro Morata is his guy, and why the fragile forward has been handed the optimal shot at redemption.