Success at the top level of professional sports is often as much about an athlete’s mental fortitude as it is their physical and technical prowess. For Alvaro Morata, the Juventus and Spanish national team forward, this became evident during a difficult two-year period in London.
In 2017, Chelsea signed Morata from Real Madrid with the hopes he would replace the goals scored by the outgoing Diego Costa. At the time, Morata said to the press:
I am so happy to be here. It's an incredible emotion to be part of this big club. I am looking to work hard, score as many goals as I can and to win as many trophies as possible.
In 72 appearances over two seasons, Morata scored 24 goals, which was a return that failed to fulfil the expectations fans had built up.
Behind the scenes, they were unaware of the mental hardship Morata endured. In an interview with Spanish publication El Mundo, he revealed that he never had depression, but came close. He said:
When your head doesn't work well, you are your worst enemy. During those times, it doesn't matter what you do, you are always fighting against yourself. Depression is an illness just like breaking your ankle.
Training the mind
After a trying first season at Stamford Bridge, Morata said he began seeing a sports psychologist. He explained that seeing a professional helped him train his mind, comparing the process to going to the gym.
Even for his generation, he continued, seeking mental support was still taboo, and that it is only in recent years that players have started reversing the trend.
For him, mental coaching should be obligatory. If he had some during his first season at Chelsea, he said things could have gone better.
Morata is currently having a comeback season with Juventus, as he has scored 16 goals and provided 11 assists in 34 games.