Rome can heal the troubled English midfielder
With West Ham willing to let his contract expire in five months’ time, Ravel Morrison is poised to join Lazio on a free-transfer in the Summer.
That, mercifully, will bring the curtain down on one of the more bizarre episodes in recent footballing history: Within the space of a year, Morrison has gone from being the brightest young thing in the English game to an unwanted nuisance in a newly three-dimensional West Ham outfit that his manager and club would rather be without.
Just over twelve months ago, Morrison was dancing through the Tottenham defence at White Hart Lane. It was a moment of pure greatness and a goal which, at the time, appeared to validate all the the projections of his talent.
In the weeks following, his performances would be covered in player-specific liveblogs, a mule-kick goal from England U21 training would go viral, and he was linked to a cast of highly-illustrious European clubs.
That was the apex, though. Between now and then, his career has been a muddled mess of tapping-up allegations (Fulham), Championship loan deals (QPR and Cardiff City), and misconduct fines – a situation has been framed by an obvious acrimony between him and Sam Allardyce.
Needless to say, Italy is suitably far away to represent an appealing option to all parties. Morrison is yet to formalise his agreement with Lazio, but is expected to confirm his move to the Stadio Olimpico within the coming weeks.
And maybe that will prove to be a very astute decision.
English football is a tough environment for a young player to grow up in. Because the game is the country’s dominant sport and because the Premier League is the commercial behemoth that it is, the focus is unrelenting.
Young homegrown players who shimmer with the slightest talent are elevated way too high, way too soon and – as example after example has proven – that’s a very self-defeating habit.
Ravel Morrison has been exposed to that, but that does not necessarily excuse his stagnation. This is a player who has been plagued by accusations of poor behaviour and who has periodically strayed into the crosshairs of the Crown Prosecution Service.
Media pressure and public expectation don’t afford a free-pass and there has to be some degree of personal responsibility here. While plenty of English players have buckled under the weight of scrutiny, almost all of them have done so in a less dramatic, less destructive way than Morrison.
He can’t change the way the game is covered, but he can alter the perception around him.
Rome presents him with that opportunity. It’s cliched to refer to a move abroad as a fresh start, but that’s exactly what this would be.
In Italy, Ravel Morrison would blend into the crowd. He would be just another overseas player plying his trade in Serie A and, while whispers about his past may follow him, he wouldn’t be indulged to anything like the same degree.
In essence, it’s a chance for him rebuild his football CV without being exposed to the perma-bluster of the British press. One good goal for Lazio is not going to put him on the front page of Corriere dello Sport and his international future will not feature in Italian football’s accompanying narrative.
That’s a good thing; Morrison could do with being ‘just another guy’ for once. Before he’d even stepped onto a Premier League pitch, his talented player/flawed person reputation was well-established. That’s an image he could do without and that’s also an image that, to a degree, he would shed by moving to a new country.
This isn’t just an automatic whitewash, though. To be successful in Italy, Morrison has to make some choices. There is more conjecture than known fact about his private life, but whatever the truth it’s not healthy – and that’s evidenced by the state of his career.
If his response to moving leagues is just to transplant his current existence from one city to another, then there’s little value to the transition: he needs a new environment and a new culture, not just a different set of physical surroundings.
Even with buffeting wealth, emigration usually provokes greater maturity in someone and heightens their sense of personal responsibility. Ravel Morrison isn’t overly-endowed with either quality and so maybe this is the life-changing jolt that he needs?
This is a second-chance, but only if it makes it so. If he’s able to isolate himself from the destructive forces which have continually derailed his progress – whatever they may be – then this is a talent which could yet see realised.