Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata has said he is feeling better mentally after coming through a tough spell in his professional and personal life over the past year.
Morata’s close friend was killed in a car crash and his wife Alice Campello endured a difficult pregnancy carrying the couple’s twin boys. On the field, he endured hamstring and back issues and he scored just three in 22 appearances between January and May.
“The most important thing is that, finally, I have found the right way and my head is OK,” he said. “In football, physical condition is very important, but the head is the most important thing. If you don’t have the head, if the mentality is not good, then you are in trouble.
“I had a period where everything. If it’s raining, I’m angry because it’s raining. If I miss, it’s because the pitch is too wet. It was only excuses. It was not good.
“Everyone can have a bad period in their life. But we are famous, we have a lot of things. Sometimes people think we are not human, with no feelings, with no problems. The important thing is to find the right balance. Now, I have, and I am very happy.”
Morata has a history of allowing bad form and criticism to get to him; Gianluigi Buffon once told the striker not to cry in public after he found his Juventus teammate in tears during a long barren streak, but insisted he is now in a much healthier emotional state.
Although Morata has scored five goals in his last six Chelsea appearances in all competitions, he is aware that many inside and outside Stamford Bridge remain sceptical he is a worthy replacement for Diego Costa.
“I know that sometimes I am in the middle of all the critics when the team drops or when the team loses,” he added. “But it doesn’t matter.
“I’m better. I think no one, only my wife, knows how big the last year was. Now, it’s OK. In the last month of last season, I was down, down, down, down. I cannot be more down.
“When you touch the limit, the only thing you can do is to come back. It takes long because I had an injury, I was not fit when playing, but now I feel good. The important thing is the team. I want to win with this team and I think we have a very good chance this year.”
Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri urged Morata to focus on his team contributions rather than goals after Sunday’s 3-1 win over Crystal Palace and it is Eden Hazard who leads the team in scoring so far this season with seven goals in 10 Premier League appearances.
“This is the league with the best strikers in the world,” Morata said. “There is Hazard, there is [Sadio] Mane, [Roberto] Firmino, [Sergio] Aguero, Harry Kane.
“I need to work a lot to be like them. For sure, I always want to score because it is good for me. Sometimes people think that I don’t like to score or that I want to miss. Now I think I’m having more chances than I did last year. Last year I could only score with headers, but now I can score with different things.
“In Spain and Italy there are good strikers but here you have 10 strikers who can score every weekend and it is very hard. At the end of the season the important thing is to be in first place. It doesn’t matter if you score 15 or 20. Of course we are strikers and you want to score, but we need to win also.”