The strange case of Ravel Morrison

The name Ravel Morrison may ring a few bells for football fans. At least for those truly unfamiliar with the English footballer. If you haven’t seen him play, there is a good chance you may not have, you may know Morrison from FIFA or Championship Manager where he was a teen wunderkind.

A former Manchester United academy player, Morrison had praise heaped on him from a young age. Rio Ferdinand considers Morrison the best football player he knew not to fulfil his potential. By all admissions, Morrison was a star in the making in Manchester United’s academy.

Morrison became a full-fledge professional at the age of 17. Hopes were high Morrison would be the next big Manchester United academy graduate and lead the way for others such as Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, and Marcus Rashford.

The midfielder was rated highly by Sir Alex Ferguson. So, highly that the former manager believed Morrison was better at his age than anyone else to come before him at Old Trafford. That is unbelievable praise from Ferguson.

But Morrison’s raise and upward trajectory were knocked off course. Like so many footballers that have off-field issues interrupt their careers, Morrison began to struggle both on and off the pitch due to the trouble he got into.

Manchester United sold Morrison to West Ham for a reported £707,000 fee. The Red Devils stuck a clause in the transfer contract, however, stating West Ham would pay Morrison’s former team £25,000 for every match the midfielder played.

Morrison played over 24 times for West Ham in four seasons but spent a lot of time out on loan. During the 2013-14 season, Morrison quietly made 21 appearances for the Hammers, his most.

When Morrison initially joined West Ham, manager Sam Allardyce noted that the player needed to “get away from Manchester”. Reading between the lines, it is assumed family and friends were part of Morrison’s off-field issues that caused him to not fulfil his potential.

After loans to the Championship with Birmingham City, Queens Park Rangers, and Cardiff City (where Morrison had turned into an above-average second division footballer) he left England and signed for Italy’s Lazio.

Despite allegedly learning Italian, Morrison’s time in Italy wasn’t fruitful. He played eight times for Lazio in 2015-16 before being loaned back to QPR and onto Mexico’s Atlas. In early 2019, Morrison landed in Sweden after his Lazio contract expired and signed for Allsvenskans team Ostersund.

In Sweden, things clicked as Morrison scored one goal in nine games in all competitions. He was praised for his play and contributions to the team. However, Morrison had initially signed just a six-month contract with Ostersund. When it expired the club couldn’t re-sign him due to Morisson’s salary being high. His injury record didn’t justify the outlay of cash.

Although it was a setback, it opened the door for Morrison to gain an opportunity at Premier League club Sheffield United. Needing to add quality players for their first season back in the Premier League, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder offered Morrison a trial. The midfielder impressed the manager and was given a one-year contract.

Now 26, Morrison has seen what could have been his best football years dissipate. Still, he can make a big mark on the Premier League this season.

In 2015, Ferguson wrote in his book Leading:

“Ravel Morrison might be the saddest case. He possessed as much natural talent as any youngster we ever signed, but he kept getting into trouble. It was painful to sell him to West Ham in January 2012 because he could have been a fantastic player. But, over a period of several years, the problems off the pitch continued to escalate and so we had little option but to cut the cord.”

Morrison’s off-field issues curtailed what could have been a great career. Now, he is just a journeyman footballer attempting a comeback in the Premier League. Despite his faults, Morrison has never given up on a career in football.

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