Atletico Madrid signed striker Alvaro Morata on Monday to an 18-month loan from Chelsea, ending his miserable stay in English soccer following aclub-record move from Real Madrid for $75 million.
Morata will return to the club where he started playing as a child. The 26-year-old Spaniard passed his medical exam on Sunday in Madrid.
“I’m very happy and proud to be here,” he said. “I can’t wait to start practising with my teammates and to start playing.”
Morata played in Atletico’s youth program before joining Real Madrid’s academy in 2008. He eventually became a first-team player for Real Madrid and helped it win two Champions League titles.
His links to Real Madrid caused some Atletico fans to protest against the transfer. Part of the crowd attending the team’s 2-0 win over Getafe on Saturday criticized the player’s signing.
Financial details of the transfer were not immediately released.
Morata returns to the Spanish league after a disappointing year-and-a-half with Chelsea, which he joined in the 2017-18 season. His last appearance with the English club was against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup on Jan. 5, when he scored both goals in the team’s 2-0 win.
Chelsea was the first big club where Morata was signed as the first-choice striker — he was used primarily as a back-up at Real Madrid and Juventus. He had problems adapting to the gruelling nature of English soccer, scoring seven goals in his first seven competitive games before finding the net only eight times in his final 40 games last season.
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri called Morata “a little bit fragile from the mental point of view,” and said he needed a new striker to cure Chelsea’s shortage of goals. The London team has since brought in Gonzalo Higuain on loan from Juventus.
Morata was not a regular starter under Sarri, scoring five goals in the Premier League.
He heads to Atletico as a request by coach Diego Simeone, whose forwards include Antoine Griezmann, Victor “Vitolo” Machin, Nikola Kalinic and Diego Costa.
Vitolo and Costa have been out of action with injuries, with the Brazilian-born striker Costa not expected to be available for a while because of a foot injury that required surgery last year.
Morata has made 27 appearances with Spain’s national team, with 13 goals. He was part of the team that played in the 2016 European Championship in France, but missed out on the squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia because of his poor club form.
The striker has 82 goals and 37 assists in his career.
A day before Morata’s arrival, Atletico said they agreed to loan Portugal forward Gelson Martins to Monaco for the remainder of the season. Martins scored one goal in 12 appearances with Atletico this season.
Atletico trail Spanish league leader Barcelona by five points after 21 matches. They will face Juventus in the last 16 of the Champions League on Feb. 20.