Real Madrid's Alvaro Morata is one of the most talented young strikers in the game today.
Fast, strong and technically adept, the 21-year-old has all the ingredients to succeed at the highest level.
His goalscoring prowess, aerial ability and boyish appearance have led to frequent comparisons with Fernando Morientes, although Morata's speed and crossing ability make him far more versatile than the former Real Madrid and Monaco man.
After top-scoring for a victorious Spain side in the 2013 U-21 European Championships, Morata was promoted to Real Madrid's first-team squad. He went on to score nine goals in 34 appearances despite rarely starting (per Soccerway).
Best goal/minute ratio in La Liga 2013-14: 1º MORATA (1 goal each 72 min) 2º Cristiano (1 each 82) 3º Ibai (1 each 86) 4º Messi (1 each 87)— MisterChip (English) (@MisterChiping) May 17, 2014
Bleacher Report's own Ryan Bailey described Morata as "the new shining star" of the team, echoing the sentiments of Madridistas pining for a new homegrown star.
After struggling for minutes in a star-studded Real Madrid side however, Morata may be on his way out of the capital club.
This news may disappoint Madridistas who were looking forward to seeing a new Quinta del Buitre—Morata, Jese, Isco, Asier Illarramendi and Daniel Carvajal—conquer Spain and Europe.
However, if Morata is to ever become a star at Real Madrid, he needs to leave now.
The Madrid-born starlet is in a stage of his career where he needs to play regularly if he is to realize his potential. Young players cannot improve their football I.Q. unless they play. If Morata stays at Real Madrid, his playing time will be largely reduced to substitute and dead rubber appearances.
He could stay and fight it out with Karim Benzema for a starting spot. But that's one fight he cannot win right now.
Why? Quite simply, Real Madrid's tactical setup means there is no place for a player of Morata's ilk in the starting XI.
Los Merengues' premier goalscorers—Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale—operate from the flanks and drift inwards in search of goalscoring positions. This means the centre-forward needs to be seriously good at playmaking and link-up play.
He also needs to be innately unselfish, and happy to create space and goalscoring opportunities for his teammates.
Benzema is just that—a player who is unusually unselfish for a no. 9 and genuinely seems to enjoy setting up his teammates. Morata is not that player.
Benzema can score too. According to ESPN FC, he scored nearly a goal every two games on average for Real Madrid during the 2013-14 season—a striking feat for a player who also managed 14 assists.
For all his potential, Morata simply isn't at Benzema's level—and the Frenchman is only beginning to approach his peak years.
It's not all down to a difference in pure footballing ability however.
Morata's problem is that he has been overly keen to impress during his limited time on the pitch. Burdened by performance anxiety, he has tried too hard to score goals instead of trusting in his natural game.
At the start of the 2013-14 season, he seemed to be pushing Benzema for a spot in the starting XI. As the season rolled on however, Benzema found his stride and Jese began to put in blistering performances in the absence of the oft-injured Gareth Bale.
Morata found himself out of the team, and out of the conversation.
This is unlikely to change if he stays on next season, with Benzema having established himself as the team's starting centre-forward.
Morata needs to leave and go to a team where he doesn't need to try too hard. Players his age need to play in an environment where they know that even if they have a poor game today, they are still likely to play the next game.
That kind of environment breeds confidence, which in turn breeds good performances.
So far, Morata's reported suitors include the likes of Juventus and Arsenal. Both clubs stand to offer him more playing opportunities than Real Madrid, while allowing him to compete at the very highest level.
The youngster would also do well to consider a move to a mid-table La Liga team that could afford him a guaranteed starter spot at the cost of not playing in the Champions League.
If Morata does well in another team, he could return to Real Madrid properly equipped to stake his claim as a starter.
It's a model that has been employed by Real Madrid in recent seasons with much success.
In 2011, Los Blancos sold promising right-back Daniel Carvajal to Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen. The deal included a buyback clause giving Los Blancos the option to bring the player back to the Bernabeu after just one season.
Carvajal went on to have a breakout season, being shortlisted—per MARCA—as one of the league's three best right-backs, alongside Bayern Munich and Germany captain Phillip Lahm and Schalke 04’s Japanese international Atsuto Ichida.
His performances impressed the bosses at the Bernabeu, who exercised their option to bring him back to Madrid.
In his first season with Los Merengues’ senior team, Carvajal cemented his position as first-choice right-back as Real Madrid won the Champions League and Copa Del Rey titles.
It is that kind of incredible success story that coach Carlo Ancelotti hopes will repeat itself with Morata. The Italian implied as much in an interview posted on Real Madrid's official website.
Morata would like to look for an opportunity where he has more minutes. The club agrees and is exploring that option. It would be good to give him the opportunity for a year.
The key words are "for a year". In all likelihood, Morata will be sold in a deal that will contain a buy-back clause giving Real Madrid the option to bring him back after a year or two.
It's a move that makes sense for both player and club.
Morata can go to a team where he can play regularly and improve. If he does well, Real Madrid can bring him back to the Bernabeu and reap the benefits of his talents.
Looking at the bigger picture—specifically Morata's prospective international career—this is the perfect time for him to seek a move in search of more playing time.
Spain's disastrous World Cup exit has cast doubts over the future of the national team's tiki-taka playing style, which has seen them play without a centre-forward for years.
It's a time of flux for La Roja. The time is ripe for a new generation of players to throw their hat into the ring. If Morata plays regularly, he can stake a claim for a Spain debut.
It's a no-brainer. Alvaro Morata has to leave Real Madrid to well and truly kickstart his club and international career.