Ravel Morrison: Wasted talent or late bloomer?

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Nowadays, when I mention the name Ravel Morrison the general reaction is “Who?” or “What?” But if we were to turn back the clock eight years, then the responses would be quite different. Morrison came through the youth ranks at Manchester United and in his first season, 2010-11, he and a number of other promising youngsters became part of the first team. The most successful of that crop was Paul Pogba, now back at Manchester United after a stint at Juventus, and Danny Welbeck of Arsenal. However, a number of others have also gone on to success with clubs no quite on the same level as Manchester United. Josh King has had a prolific couple of seasons for Bournemouth, notably scoring 16 goals in the 2016-17 season. Robbie Brady has also gone on to become an experienced Republic of Ireland international and is a key part of an increasingly strong Burnley outfit. However, the same cannot be said for Ravel Morrison. In an interview at the time Gary Neville described him as ‘the principal game changer’, a huge compliment bearing in mind that he was playing in a Manchester United youth team with Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard. Neville even went as far as to describe him as ‘a Paul Gascoigne type player.’ So where did it all go wrong?

Morrison left Manchester after his first season in the senior squad where he made only one first team appearance. Then, during the 2011-12 season, he moved to West Ham, a championship team at that time. He joined a very talented squad with the likes of Kevin Nolan, Mark Noble, and Carlton Cole. The team achieved instant promotion back into the premier league, however Morrison was then loaned out to Birmingham City, who were still in the Championship at the time. There’s a certain lack of progression throughout Morrison’s career and this is outlined by this loan move, although some may argue that he was still lacking the experience to play at the peak of English football at this time. However, Morrison did make somewhat of an impact at Birmingham, making 27 league appearances and scoring three times but also chipping in with three assists. Considering he was only 20 at the time this was quite the record. The following season he returned to West Ham but was later loaned to Queens Park Rangers. He made 38 appearances in all competitions in this season, scoring 11 and assisting four. This is widely considered to be his breakthrough season, which really highlighted his incredible potential. According to WhoScored this was also his best season, achieving a rating of 7.18 throughout. After making such an impact and proving himself and his ability, it’s fair to assume West Ham would find space for him in the squad and give him the game time he deserves. While he would’ve been competing with the likes of Morgan Amalfitano and Stewart Downing who were good capable players at the time, he could’ve easily held his own. Bearing in mind Rio Ferdinand described him in an interview as ‘the best talent I’ve ever seen coming through the ranks.’ Yet again he found himself being loaned out to a championship team, Cardiff City. He struggled to really find his best form at the Welsh club but limited game time didn’t help. At the end of the season it became apparent that West Ham weren’t willing to renew his contract and Morrison was forced to find a new club.

At the age of 22, Ravel was still somewhat inexperienced, having been granted limited playing time for the majority of his spell in England. He then signed for a side with a rich European history and plethora of talented players. This was the Italian institution Lazio. He joined established players like Lucas Biglia and World Cup winner Miroslav Klose, but also the young Felipe Anderson and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, both of whom have recently been linked with Manchester United and a number of other high profile European clubs. This was Morrison’s chance to grab his career by the scruff of the neck. It was a fresh start and a fresh challenge. However, it seemingly wasn’t to be. Over 3 years Morrison played four times for the club and his average WhoScored rating across these seasons was 6.17, which is fairly average. There were rumours that he was unsettled and wanted to return to England but he has denied this. In his second year at the club, Morrison did return to England in a loan move back to Queens Park Rangers, however he only made five league appearances before then returning back to Turin. And that brings us to the current playing season. Towards the end of his spell at Lazio, the coach at the time, Stefano Pioli, criticised his effort and lack of ability to speak Italian. Lazio is still his parent club, however he has again been loaned out, this time not to England but to the Mexican first division, to Club Atlas. Club Atlas aren’t having a good season, they find themselves propping up the bottom of the table after 12 games. But if we look more specifically at Morrison’s season then it doesn’t look to have been quite so bleak. He’s made 19 appearances in total this year, scoring three times. However, he rarely plays a full ninety minutes and so the impact he’s made is testament to his ability. Perhaps by going and finding himself in one of the lesser known leagues he’ll finally get that kick-start to his career. It must be remembered that Morrison is still only twenty five years of age and so has his best years to come.

When one looks back on his career so far, it’s hard to see exactly where it went wrong. Maybe his attitude wasn’t always the best but it does seem that he was harshly treated in terms of not being given sufficient playing time despite being young. Paddy Crerand, Manchester United legend, described Morrison as the best to come through Manchester United’s academy since George Best, so it’s fair to say that his career hasn’t lived up to the hype but is it too late? Despite having played for a number of clubs and being very well travelled he’s still only twenty five years old, and has his best to come. But where will he go? His contract at Lazio expires at the end of the 2018-19 season so it’s more than likely that a return to England is on the cards. And in fact, his recent actions on social media seem to suggest he’d like a return to the Premier League. Carlton Cole commented ‘Bro time to come back to England’ to which Morrison responded ‘Bring me back to West Ham you have the power.’ Does this suggest a return to London? If Morrison was to come back to England, whether it be in the Premier League or the Championship, then there is more than enough time for him to turn his career around. Now a more experienced player, he is guaranteed more game time and if his attitude and fitness is up to scratch, then there is very little stopping him from becoming the top class player so many Manchester United players said he could be. And perhaps, if everything goes to plan, he could even find himself on the plane to Qatar in 2022.