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Morata asked to leave Chelsea a month ago, says Sarri

Alvaro Morata has told Chelsea he wants to leave the club in the January transfer window, according to Maurizio Sarri.

Morata has drifted out of favour under Sarri this season, with the Spain striker having only scored five Premier League goals in 16 appearances.

Sarri has preferred to use Eden Hazard as a false nine of late, while Gonzalo Higuain arrived on loan from Juventus on Wednesday to boost Chelsea's attacking options.

Morata, previously described by Sarri as "mentally fragile", has subsequently been linked with a return to Spain, with Atletico Madrid reportedly interested in a deal for the former Real Madrid player.

And Sarri duly explained why Morata's problems made him target Higuain, the Argentina international having plundered 36 Serie A goals for the Italian's Napoli side in the 2015-16 season.

"We have some problems to score. Higuain usually is able to score 25 or 30 goals every season," Sarri told reporters ahead of the second leg of the EFL Cup semi-final against Tottenham. 

"But, as I told you before, in the market in January it's very difficult to secure a very important striker. Gonzalo was in a situation that we could try to buy him, and so we decided to try for Higuain.

"I think that Morata is a very good player. I think that Morata has the characteristics for playing in my team. But Morata, one month ago, said he wanted to play in another team. So it was really very difficult for him to give us the 100 per cent for his mental situation, I think.

"But I think that Morata is potentially a very important player. From the physical and technical point of view, he is a very good player and suitable for my football. But the situation changed in the last month. So we needed to change."

Asked if Morata is certain to leave, Sarri added: "He is injured at the moment. Not seriously, but he has a little problem with his calf. Not serious, I think. [On Thursday] the doctor told me no more than three or four days.

"I don't know. As you know very well, I don't want to follow the [transfer] market day by day. I don't know the actual situation. Morata told me 10 days ago that there was an opportunity in Spain, but I don't know where."

Higuain has signed on a short-term loan to the end of the season but Sarri hopes the striker can earn a permanent move to Stamford Bridge.

"I don't know exactly the details of the contract, so it's very difficult for me to answer. It's up to him, I think," Sarri said, ahead of the deal being completed.

"He has to score, first of all. I think that, for a long-term contract, he has to do very well. He has to play. He has to score. He has to be useful for the team.

"But of course, the player is a very important player. Then I want to see the actual situation."