Many have their opinions on Ravel Morrison, but one thing everyone seems to agree on is that he had all the tools to become a top player in the game. Having represented the likes of Manchester United, West Ham United and Lazio, Morrison has earned a reputation as one of the greatest wastes of potential.
The Jamaica international, now 30, was widely considered one of the most talented young players of his generation while in Manchester United’s academy. Born and raised in Manchester, Morrison was spotted by United’s academy coach Phil Brogan at the age of eight while playing for Fletcher Moss Rangers, a club who also produced Danny Welbeck and Wes Brown.
Brogan told the Daily Telegraph in 2013: “I didn’t even need to see him kick a ball at that point, you could just tell he had something about him from his demeanour.” Despite also training with local rivals Manchester City, Morrison eventually signed for the Red Devils following a six-week trial and quickly went on to make an impression.
Brogan added: “I genuinely believe he could become good enough to play for any team in the world, including Barcelona. The talent I saw in that eight-year-old will always be there.” Morrison progressed through United’s academy at the same time as the likes of Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba but was always considered the most gifted footballer.
Sir Alex Ferguson described Morrison as having “as much natural talent as any youngster we ever signed”, while Rio Ferdinand called him “the best young kid I have ever seen in my life”. During a segment on BT Sport in 2013, Ferdinand added that Ravel had the potential to become one of the world’s best, as he admitted: “I would pay to watch him train let alone play in a match.”
After turning professional on his 17th birthday in February 2010, the attacking midfielder made his senior debut in October of that year, coming on as a substitute in a League Cup victory over Wolves. He would have to wait 12 months for his second appearance, as a substitute in the League Cup, with his final outing for the Red Devils coming in a 3-2 defeat at Crystal Palace in the same competition.
But there were already concerns about Morrison’s attitude and off-pitch behaviour. In 2011, he pleaded guilty to two counts of witness intimidation and was sentenced to a 12-month referral order and ordered to pay costs and compensation of £1,445.
Later that year, he underwent domestic violence counselling after it was revealed in court he threw his girlfriend’s phone out of a window during an argument. Back at United there was a growing acceptance that it would be in the interests of all parties for Morrison to move out of Manchester.
On deadline day of January 2012, Morrison dropped down a division to join West Ham on a three-and-a-half-year contract, but made just one first-team appearance as the Hammers earned promotion back to the Premier League. Even before he had made his debut, Morrison had been in trouble again and was fined £7,000 by the FA after making homophobic comments on Twitter.
The following season he was sent on loan to Birmingham City and, while there were initial concerns over his attitude, he finally displayed moments of quality at first team level. After returning to Upton Park ahead of the 2013-14 season, Morrison then made the breakthrough into the first team and began to make an impact on the Premier League.
Morrison, however, fell out of favour in the second half of the campaign and eventually returned to the Championship to join Queens Park Rangers on loan in February 2014. Again he impressed, scoring six times and helping QPR win promotion via the play-offs – although he was an unused substitute in the victory over Derby in the final.
He later joined Cardiff City on loan, where he started only once. During that time he was also placed on the transfer list by West Ham. With six months remaining of his deal at West Ham, Morrison signed a pre-contract agreement with Lazio in January of 2015.
A month later the Hammers terminated his contract early to allow the player to move to Rome and start training with his new club. Despite a promising start to pre-season, the England under-21 international failed to establish himself at Lazio amid renewed criticisms of his attitude.
But during an interview with The Times in February 2019, Morrison described his move to Italy as “the worst decision I’ve made in my life”. If Morrison’s career had been turbulent up to that point, his second loan move from Lazio came completely from left field as he joined Mexican outfit Atlas.
Another return to Lazio brought about the same lack of prospects and first-team opportunities, but Morrison was given the chance to train with rising Swedish side Ostersunds in February 2019, and it was later confirmed he had signed a short-term deal with the club. The midfielder scored on his first start but struggled with injuries and only made a total of nine appearances for the club.
After leaving Ostersunds, Morrison returned to British shores in 2019, signing a one-year deal with newly-promoted Sheffield United.
Morrison was linked with moves to Vitesse Arnhem and FC Utrecht before signing a one-year deal with ADO Den Haag in September 2020 – the 11th club of his career. History soon repeated itself, though, with Morrison soon handed a lifeline from Wayne Rooney’s Derby County in the Championship.
Making 38 appearances and scoring five goals after joining the Rams in July 2021, Morrison had found his feet once more – but his next club would come sooner rather than later. Rooney, the new manager at DC United, persuaded the player to come across the pond to sign up with his 13th different employer. The midfielder signed a one-year deal with the option for another year.
On Sunday, Rooney’s side started the new Major League Soccer season with a stunning comeback win against Toronto FC, however, Morrison was omitted from his opening-day squad. The DC boss has since explained his decision, stating that he has enough midfielders at his disposal.
Rooney said: “I felt with players we were bringing in and different things you need to look at in terms of the budget, international slots, et cetera. It was more important I got different players in for different positions, which we felt were more important to me.”
Rooney’s comments have, almost seemingly, left a cloud over Morrison’s future once more and only time will tell if he can reach his peak again in the twilight stages of his topsy-turvy career.
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