During last season’s summer transfer window, Manchester United and Chelsea’s search for a new number nine got the rumor mills churning. Would United sign Morata from Madrid? Would Lukaku rejoin Chelsea? That seemed to be the expectation. Lukaku instead joined Manchester United with Morata eventually going to Chelsea. We look at who got the better end of those deals.
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Based on media reports, Manchester United were keen on Alvaro Morata first, even negotiating for a long time with Real Madrid but ultimately decided to call it quits due to Madrid’s asking price. Pictures appeared with Morata’s hair apparrently dyed red, causing the football world to believe a move to Old Trafford was indeed on the cards. United did not budge on their valuation of a player who was after all only a backup at the Bernabeu.
United went for Lukaku instead. Whether it was Paul Pogba’s influence or the attraction to a club with a better history or a need to prove himself to a manager who previously sold him, we’ll never know why Lukaku joined United instead of Chelsea. Antonio Conte certainly showed his disapproval that Chelsea’s transfer negotiators had allowed his nemesis Mourinho to sneak under their radar and sign their main target. It would be the beginning of the end for the Italian manager, who started criticizing those in charge of transfers at Chelsea and was eventually fired after a season where they failed to qualify for the Champions League.
Chelsea signed Morata and at that time, it seemed like they had the better player out of the two. Morata had done very well at Juventus and had won a couple of La Ligas and Champions Leagues at Real Madrid, albeit as a sub who was not called upon too often. Lukaku on the other hand was reputed for scoring only against small clubs and having a clumsy first touch. Mourinho did know the player though from his time at Chelsea and Lukaku was proven in the Premier League with stints at West Bromwich Albion and Everton. If anything, United actually needed a player who could score against the smaller clubs. That’s where Mourinho’s problems lied at the time.
A year later, we can say with certainty that Manchester United got it spot on with Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian striker contributed 27 goals in his first season. As Ibrahimovic struggled to get back to fitness and eventually left for the MLS, Lukaku played an impressive 51 games for the club. He was also brilliant with his country, finding the net 18 times in 19 games and excelling as a leader in the Belgium team at the World Cup. His lung bursting run to set up De Bruyne’s goal against Brazil comes to mind.
Meanwhile, Morata found life hard in London. The Premier League was unlike anything he had seen before and the Spanish striker took time to settle down. He did come up with 15 goals but did not quite impress like Lukaku. He also had his fair share of injuries. Eden Hazard was often preferred as a number nine and Giroud came in from Arsenal to try and spearhead the Chelsea attack. While Lukaku went on to star at the World Cup with Belgium, Morata was not even selected for Spain.
Manchester United and Romelu Lukaku win this one. Morata might still come good for Chelsea but with the managerial inconsistency at Chelsea and the probable departure of Hazard and Courtois, he might never be as decisive as Lukaku. The Belgian striker has shown he can lead from the front, not only in terms of goals but with his strong personality.
It’s safe to say Manchester United got the better deal.
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