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How ex-Man Utd prodigy Ravel Morrison found his way back to Premier League

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From Italy to Mexico, ex-Man United prodigy Ravel Morrison's nomadic journey made him a target for League Two clubs... but he's back in the Premier League and ready to show the talent Sir Alex Ferguson knew he hadRavel Morrison was once considered one of the best talents in England But after difficult spells at various clubs, he went and joined Lazio in Italy That did not work out and he went on loan to Atlas in Mexico before returning Morrison eventually found stability in Sweden before joining Sheffield United 

When Ravel Morrison left Ostersunds in the summer, even League Two sides thought he might be a realistic target. Salford owner Gary Neville sent him a direct message on Twitter and asked him what he was up to.

Neville got an answer he did not expect. 'Oh, I'm just signing for a Premier League club'.

A top flight deal seemed as unlikely as his famous goal against Spurs.

Ravel Morrison returned to the Premier League this summer with Sheffield United

When he left Ostersunds in the summer, it seemed like he had hit another dead end

After all, the one-time Manchester United prodigy, a kid who starred alongside Paul Pogba at youth level, one who Sir Alex Ferguson said has 'as much natural talent as any youngster we ever signed', had spent the last half decade on a footballing gap year.

His career path and that of someone trying to find himself would not differ much. After being let go by United, he had tough spells at West Ham and QPR. Then he went to Italy, Mexico, back to Italy and then rocked up in Sweden.

What the world missed was the rejuvenation that came with his time in Scandinavia. Where Morrison's reputation preceded him in England, the right environment helped him get his career back on track.

He was a team-mate of Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba at youth level for Manchester United

He joined Sheffield United instead of Salford. Morrison made his full return to the English game against Blackburn on Tuesday night and it would not be a shock to see Morrison line up against Chelsea this weekend.

There is perception and reality. Ask those who have dealt with him and he's 'just a nice guy'. His return was no shock.

This is how one of football's wanderers spent his exile and made his way back to England.  

Morrison's time at West Ham ended in February 2015 with a deal already on the table for him to join Lazio at the end of the season. The Hammers released him and he immediately started training with I Biancocelesti.

Not that anyone at Lazio was particularly impressed. It took months for him to get up to the required level and how bad he had been on arrival was clear from manager Stefano Pioli's comments come June: 'The Morrison who got here in March must have been a brother or a relative of his'.

There were even hints that he wanted to cut short his time in Italy and return to England before he had pulled on the sky blue shirt.

When Morrison had the ball at his feet, everyone in Italy seemed to think he would be a star

Then Morrison got the ball at his feet and everything seemed to fall into place. In their first friendly of the summer, he scored twice and provided two assists.

Corriere dello Sport immediately dubbed him the 'new Gascoigne'. The Rome-based Il Messaggero wrote: 'The fans who had come to see him were left rubbing the palms of their hands after applauding him so much.'

When he suffered a knock in a friendly, a local newspaper called it 'the worst news of the summer'. 

But when the season proper began, Morrison was rarely seen. He featured in a Champions League play-off, which Lazio lost. He also came on as a substitute in a 4-0 defeat to Chievo.

Morrison was rarely seen at Lazio once the real competitive action began in the Italian league

In September 2015, Pioli moaned and said: 'Morrison has to work harder. He still doesn't speak a word of Italian.'

By October, Morrison had cryptically tweeted the word 'January' and wanted out.

He would have to wait until the following January to leave. There was a loan back at QPR, but he failed to impress there, and they did not take up a £2m option to buy him.

Then came the next step on Morrison's world tour. In August 2017, he moved on loan to Atlas in Mexico.

Morrison moved on loan to Atlas in Mexico and initially impressed for the Liga MX team

He scored against Queretaro in October amid a solid run of games — his first in years. By January 2018 he was standing out. He started three times and bagged twice that month. It seemed he had come into form.

Then he was dropped again. There was only one more start, against Tigres in a 2-0 defeat in February. Atlas did not make his move permanent.

Back in Italy, back at the club he had not played for in over three years, Ravel's road seemed to be nearing a dead end.

Then came the call from Sweden. 

But he would drop out of the team there and seemed at a dead end when he returned to Italy

Ostersunds are not exactly household names even within Sweden. They were in the fourth tier only eight years ago.

On these shores, they are probably best known for launching the managerial career of Brighton manager Graham Potter and a Europa League run in 2017-18 that saw them knocked out by Arsenal.

The town itself is a seven-hour drive north of Stockholm. For half of the year, the temperature barely rises above zero. Perfect, then, for a player looking to reignite his passion for football.

David Webb was recently appointed head of football operations at Huddersfield. Before that, though, the recruitment specialist was technical director of Ostersunds.

From the minute Morrison arrived on trial, it became clear Ostersunds would have to sign him

When it became clear that Morrison was not going make Lazio's first-team, he had talks with the Italian side. Webb had dealt with Morrison before.

'I knew him personally and knew his character,' Webb told Sportsmail. 'He's a humble lad who just wants to play football. He wanted to build himself and his confidence back up, it was low risk, really.'

It did not take long for Morrison to demonstrate his ability: 'From the first training session, first 10 or 15 minutes, you could see that he is Premier League quality.

'The fitness wasn't there but the technical quality, the way he manipulates the ball, was there to see.

'The way he reads the game, sees it, is quicker than most players.'

After a week's trial, they snapped him up. As former goalkeeper and Ostersunds coach David Preece recently wrote: 'In my 26 years in football, I certainly haven't seen a player with such finesse and technical mastery. And that's no exaggeration. Simply put, with a ball at his feet, Ravel's ability is sublime.

Ostersunds was considered the perfect environment for Morrison to rejuvenate himself

'Within seconds of him touching the ball his artistry removed any decision whether to sign him or not.'

Morrison worked on his fitness early this year. Then Ostersunds started to build him into the side. He played deep and at No 10. In that attacking berth, Webb remembers a game in which he scored and set up a team-mate.

An injury from a nasty tackle limited his game time but by the end, he was, in the words of Webb, 'becoming the real Ravel.'

'He was showing what he could do and if he did that, he would have been the best player in Scandinavia by a country mile.'

Off the pitch, this supposed troublemaker was impressive too. When two young fans asked him for an autograph and it turned out they did not have a shirt for him to sign, he took them into the club shop and bought them both kits.

Webb added: 'We had a few younger players in the squad, 16-year-olds, and he was very good with them and took them under his wing.

The 26-year-old acted as a mentor to a number of the younger players at Ostersunds

'They were kind of in awe of him because they knew where he'd been. Also because of him in training. If you watched him in training too, you'd be in awe because of his talent.

'He was a good character when they joined in sessions, advising them where to be, offering pointers and encouraging them.'

Why was it a success? Webb feels Morrison needs the right environment around him: 'He just wanted to play and just wanted to avoid distraction.

'Overall, he's just a nice guy'.

He was not long for that pocket of Sweden. England came calling again.

When Sheffield United signed Morrison after his exit from Ostersunds, there was some surprise.

But Wilder is said to have been thorough with his background checks on the player. Morrison's mindset is also thought to have been noted as a positive during his trial.

Webb had noticed a change in Morrison. 'He's a different lad. He's 26 now. He's lived abroad in three different countries.

'He's got great learning experiences. All those things contribute to where he is now.'

Morrison has been called more mature and seems as though he has learned over the years

Wilder saw it as low risk, as Webb had before him. Earlier this month he told said: 'A Ravel Morrison fully firing, playing at the top of his game, is someone we get nowhere near - that's possibly a £40million, £50m, £60m player.'

On Tuesday, he starred in the win over Blackburn. Observers picked him out as the man of the match, while Wilder was full of praise after the final whistle: 'I knew what I was going to get with Ravel today.

'He's a bit of a free spirit at times and we have to work hard on the sidelines to nail him down at times from a shape point of view and out of possession.

It would not be a huge shock to see him given a chance when the Blades face Chelsea

'But I think you've seen what he gives you in possession. We want him to play further forward at times, because when he does he goes into overdrive and speeds the game up. He's got genuine quality to hurt.'

Morrison's talent has never been in doubt. After his world tour, a spell in Sweden has helped him bring it to the fore again. Now he has another shot at the Premier League and will be itching to prove his ability on a stage like Stamford Bridge.

Forget what you know about the name Ravel Morrison. At 26-years-old, he seems ready to make headlines for the right reasons again.

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