PRE-season friendlies are interesting for a number of reasons.
They give supporters a chance to see some of the club’s brightest young talent in action, to see new stars make their mark and even give the players who looked certain to leave the club a chance to claw their way back.
Alberto Moreno falls into the latter of those categories. After looking a dead cert to leave the club since the conclusion of last season, the Spaniard emerged from the shadows to put in a great all-round performance against Bayern Munich in The Reds’ Audi Cup victory.
But has Moreno done enough to force his way back into Jürgen Klopp’s plans for the 2017-18 season?
Even the most ardent of critics won’t doubt his ability going forward. In his early days at the club he gave a glimpse of what he could offer, giving the side natural width and an attacking outlet down the left-hand side. His pace has always been an asset.
Moreno’s biggest issue is that he’s a liability defensively. His lack of footballing intelligence has often seem him caught out of position, in situations where even his speed can’t spare his blushes.
On the odd occasion he does bail himself out, he does so in style. A full-tilt sprint towards his own goal and a lunging tackle to win the ball back is not an unfamiliar sight for Liverpool supporters.
The problem is that he gets himself in that situation in the first place. In Liverpool’s system, where the full backs positions themselves so high up the field, it’s crucial that they are smart on the ball.
For all the criticism of Nathaniel Clyne’s ability going forward it’s very rare that he’s caught out of position by losing possession — as frustrating as it is to see a player looking ponderous on the ball before hitting it straight at an opposition defender.
It’s telling that for the majority of last season Klopp had more faith in a right-footed, converted central midfielder than he did in a naturally left-sided full back. In fact, Moreno was fit for all 38 league games in 2016-17 but made just two starts.
James Milner hardly put a foot wrong all season. Some grew frustrated with how much he had to cut back on to his right foot but at times it gave the side a different dimension, allowing him to play a defence-splitting ball or whip an inswinging cross deep into the opposition area.
There were even times where it could be argued Moreno should have been given a chance, where it looked as though too much was being asked of Milner given the lack of natural width with him in the team and his limited pace to drag out deep-lying defences. Even then Moreno was limited to late cameos from the bench.
Klopp obviously noticed that his side lacked width at times with Milner on the left and has looked to address that this summer with the signing of Andrew Robertson. The 23-year-old offers some of what Moreno does going forward — width, pace and the ability to deliver a ball — but having played in teams where he’s had to defend for survival he offers more than his new teammate.
It was reported just over a month ago that The Reds had rejected a bid of £11million from Napoli because they were looking for £15m, with a host of other clubs believed to be interested in Moreno.
But after the 3-0 win over Bayern, Klopp hinted that the 25-year-old may have a future at the club, saying: “If he plays like he did today, yeah.”
He has shown he can put in that sort of performance on his day. Think back to the 3-0 win away at Tottenham Hotspur in his debut season and that stunning solo effort. To Stoke City at Anfield in 2015-16 with a thunderous strike from the edge of the area. To Crystal Palace away last season; Moreno at his creative best to assist Emre Can and smashing an effort against the post not long after.
The problem is that Moreno can’t be trusted to put in that sort of performance on a regular basis and Klopp knows that all too well based on the amount of minutes he was awarded last season.
While there is space in the squad for a player with his attributes, Liverpool would have to accept a bid that met their £15m price tag. It would take a lot more than one good performance for their stance to change on that.
At least he’s putting himself in the shop window. More performances like that then, Albie.