BARCELONA - Real Madrid may regret selling Alvaro Morata to Chelsea in July but his impressive performances in the Premier League are helping him cement a place in the Spanish national team.
Morata was rotated for much of last season at the Santiago Bernabeu and although now the Spanish champions are desperate for someone with his goalscoring prowess, the 25-year-old decided to leave for more regular football.
Under Antonio Conte at Chelsea he became an instant first-choice and repaid his coach with eight goals in 14 games, most recently netting in a 1-0 win over Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday.
Morata has quietly become important for Spain too, under coach Julen Lopetegui who took over in July 2016, after Vicente del Bosque's side were eliminated by Italy in the last 16 of Euro 2016.
With Diego Costa frozen out by the coach after going 'on strike' at Chelsea and then joining Atletico Madrid, where he cannot play until January due to the club's FIFA transfer ban, Morata is now the most high-profile forward.
"I decided the best thing was for me to leave because there was a World Cup ahead and I wanted to be in it," Morata told Marca. "I want to be important for Spain and for that I needed to have consistent football, which I'm getting now."
Spain flopped at the last two major international tournaments after the most successful period in their history, winning Euro 2008 and 2012, and the 2010 World Cup.
World Cup 2018 preparations continue with two friendlies, against Costa Rica in Malaga on Saturday, then heading to St Petersburg three days later to play tournament hosts Russia.
"Now we are hugely motivated," said Morata. "The national team is playing very well and we have a lot of players who have a tremendous amount of hope. Some of us have not played in a World Cup yet, others of us have, there's a very good mix."
Lopetegui's side qualified for Russia with nine victories and a draw in 10 games, conceding just three goals, but much of the talk ahead of the Costa Rica match has been focused off the pitch.
Spain's new adidas shirt has been criticised because the colours appear similar to the flag of the Second Republic in the country, used between 1931 and 1939, when the king was overthrown.
From a distance the kit appears to feature the colour purple, which featured on the old flag, although it is actually blue.
"From close up you can see perfectly well that it's blue," added Morata. "The colours of Spain, yellow, red and blue, those which we've always had. (The shirt) is very good."
The strip itself may have stoked up controversy but if Morata continues his good form, few will argue over the striker donning it as part of Lopetegui's first-choice side come June.