Digital Football Journalist @ronnabe
Ravel Morrison's move to Ostersunds FK marks latest turn in curious career of ex-Man Utd youth
Last Updated: 16/02/19 7:46am
Ravel Morrison's chequered career has taken another turn. How did he go from being tipped for the top to ending up at Ostersunds FK?
Sir Alex Ferguson once ranked a young Morrison's talent above Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs as the then teenager turned heads at Old Trafford. But seven years on from his Manchester United debut, he has made just 18 Premier League appearances.
"He's probably the most naturally gifted young kid I've ever seen," was Ferdinand's own review. "He'd come over at 16 and he could play one touch, could play two touch, he could weave his way through teams with ease."
But promise is no guarantee of success. For every Rooney and Giggs, there are plenty more who have the talent but fail to reach the pinnacle, and after joining the eighth club of an underwhelming career in the shape of Swedish top-flight Ostersunds FK this week, 26-year-old Morrison admitted he is still trying to get himself back on track.
Morrison's career to date
"I'm here to rebuild myself really," he told Ostersunds' YouTube channel. "Enjoy it, play football, win everything we can, it's exciting, I'm really looking forward to it."
So, has the man once talked about in the same manner as Paul Gascoigne finally found somewhere to call home? Here's how his life in football has panned out to date...
2001-2012: Manchester United
It did not take long for people to start taking note of Morrison from the minute he entered the public gaze. A Times article in 2008 pondered whether any other 15-year-old "had shown such balance and daring" as he embarrassed teenagers far older than him in his first FA Youth Cup appearance.
Morrison was still in his first year of his debut professional contract two years later when he made his Manchester United debut in a League Cup win at Wolves in 2010/11, and later that season he netted twice in the second leg of the FA Youth Cup final.
But by then he had already run into trouble. Two days after he signed his first contract, he was arrested and subsequently found guilty of witness intimidation. Only narrowly avoiding a spell in a young offenders' institute stopped United cutting their losses there and then.
His Old Trafford reprieve would last barely a year. Accused by Ferguson of "unrealistic" contract demands, Morrison hit back on Twitter to deny turning down any offer but the damage was done. With six months left on his deal, he signed for Championship West Ham. Ferguson told Hammers boss Sam Allardyce Morrison could become a "genius", but only if he could sort out his off-field issues.
Later, the former United boss wrote in his book, "Sadly, there are examples of players who have similar backgrounds to Giggs or Cristiano Ronaldo, who, despite enormous talent, just aren't emotionally or mentally strong enough to overcome the hurts of their childhood and their inner demons.
"Ravel Morrison might be the saddest case. He possessed as much natural talent as any youngster we ever signed, but kept getting into trouble.
"It was very painful to sell him to West Ham in 2012 because he could have been a fantastic player. But, over a period of years, the problems off the pitch continued to escalate and we had little option but to cut the cord."
2012-2015: West Ham, Birmingham (loan), QPR (loan), Cardiff (loan)
Morrison's West Ham career didn't get off to the best of starts. Even before making his debut he had been fined £7,000 for homophobic Twitter comments, and he made just a solitary appearance in his first season.
He was shipped out on loan to Birmingham City for 2012/13 in the hope of improving his consistency and discipline, but two months in boss Lee Clark had reportedly had enough. But then something clicked. By the end of the season, he had struck up a partnership with fellow English talent Nathan Redmond, and was labelled "the best footballer since Paul Gascoigne" by Clark.
Morrison impressed so much that while Birmingham looked to keep him for another year, West Ham were also keen to see what he could do in the top flight. After a wonderful solo goal against Tottenham in October 2013 it appeared he would do just fine, with press murmurs of a spot beckoning for England's 2014 World Cup squad.
Within months Morrison was again out of favour, but for the first time reports suggested he was not at fault for being ostracised after reacting angrily to repeated pressure to change his agent.
Another positive loan spell followed at QPR and Allardyce appeared to offer Morrison another opportunity, saying: "It's about playing the talent and himself to a disciplined life in general, is what needs to happen with Rav. If that happens we'd want him here."
But it wasn't long before he was back to square one when his next loan, to Cardiff City, yielded only one league start. He returned to West Ham but made only one more appearance for them, and Allardyce would later label him the "biggest waste of talent I ever worked with".
2015-2019: Lazio, QPR (loan), Atlas (loan)
From Cardiff's Under-23 side to Serie A was not a course many expected Morrison to plot, but his career has rarely trodden a smooth path.
There was a certain poetry that years after being compared to Gascoigne, the now 22-year-old Morrison would follow in his footsteps to become the first Englishman to join Lazio since his spell in Rome.
That would soon fade, as the Mancunian refused to learn Italian and was told he "has to work harder for the team" by manager Stefano Pioli, whose frustrations would lead Morrison to make only four Lazio appearances.
He returned to QPR for a second loan spell in 2017 having asked to be allowed to join the club, but the same old reared their head, and the Rs politely declined the chance to buy him for £2m.
Instead, he became only the second English player in history to play in the Mexican top flight when joining Atlas for the 2017/18 season. At his unveiling to a curious Mexican media, he said: "The past is the past. You get judged by what people hear, what people know".
Even he, though, could not dispute his record in football which continued its familiar pattern in Central America. He impressed early on, striking the crossbar with a long-range free-kick in his second start and scoring in his next. In January he netted twice in three starts, but amid more accusations of work-rate problems he would start only one more game all season.
He returned to Lazio in the summer under the latest of a long line of dark clouds, and did not make another appearance for the club prior to joining Ostersunds this week.
Their faith in the 26-year-old is a positive, but even they will only commit themselves until the summer. Past form suggests that could well be a wise call, but perhaps it is time for one of England's most gifted footballers of recent times to finally begin showing his potential.