The 25-year-old Spanish left back had become a punching bag for the Anfield crowd. He was derided for his social media posts, much like the club’s previous Spanish left back — though the less said about Jose Enrique, the better. But, after injury issues in the squad and a good pre season, Moreno’s swan song hasn’t arrived quite yet.
“This pre season has brought us new players. Moreno is 100 per cent back which is really nice after a difficult year,” Jürgen Klopp told reporters after Liverpool’s final pre-season game in Dublin.
Moreno, with his hover boards and terrible haircuts, has not endeared himself to the Liverpool supporters, but it’s also not inconceivable that he still has a role to play. Rarely has a bad word been uttered about him by the backroom staff or his teammates. He’s fast, a key trait for a player under Klopp, and he’s actually left footed, something this Liverpool squad was short on last season.
Add to that the fact James Milner — 31 years old with miles and years under him — is set for a move back into midfield to fill a void left by the club’s inability to sign Naby Keita and the untimely injury to Adam Lallana. It all makes the perfect cocktail for Moreno to get a second (or third) chance at turning his Liverpool career around. Plus, so far no club has met Liverpool’s price tag.
In The Reds’ current state — and with a global shortage of top-quality left backs — the club has decided to embrace Moreno’s madness. He’s a known commodity, and that’s something the team can work with. He’s not a new shiny toy, but a faded and partially broken one which can be glued back together. If Klopp can harness his positive attributes, Liverpool have a player who can add another dimension to their attack.
Moreno has his faults. He’s daft and over zealous, often leaving his post and forgetting defence is his first priority. He somehow manages to send whipping crosses into the box at inopportune times. He does that mad tackle thing where he flies in from behind and swings both his legs around a player, only occasionally making a spectacular tackle but one that would be unnecessary if he were positioned correctly in the first place. And he has a tendency to lose his mind and gift the opposition a goal or penalty.
But it’s not all bad. Look over the series of left backs Liverpool has employed over the years and you’ll see a common thread of bad options with short careers. Also Moreno’s not as terrible as he’s been made out to be, a narrative of failure has followed him throughout his time in a red shirt. He’s been written off and never given a chance to grow into the player the team envisaged he would be when he was chosen over Ryan Bertrand in the summer of 2014. He still has room to grow, tactically and mentally, but he has the physical attributes and the desire to work on his game and become an asset for Liverpool.
The Reds lacked pace last season. When Sadio Mane was away on African Cup of Nations duty, Liverpool looked short of players capable of getting in behind deep-lying defences. Milner, then filling in at left back, was never blessed with the ability to open up his legs and sprint past people. Nathaniel Clyne is fast, but he was too often wasteful with the ball. Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and the oft-injured Daniel Sturridge are not blessed with enough pace to open up and stretch defences.
It was apparent when Mane was gone how much Liverpool missed someone who could go past the opposition full back. Liverpool struggled to score and became predictable. As a natural left footer with a desire to get up and down the pitch, he can give Liverpool another option.
Watching the game against Munich, although it was a friendly, it was refreshing to see someone scampering down the left-hand side and send curling balls across the box at pace. Early in the first half, Moreno’s pace got him free and he sent a beautiful ball across the goalmouth that curled back towards the onrushing Mohamed Salah, leaving the Egyptian with an open net.
The move was a precursor to Liverpool’s blistering counter attacks and it was Moreno who lead the charge. His overlapping runs will free up his teammates, giving Mane space to run into and Coutinho another outlet. By being able to stick to the touchline, Moreno makes the field that much bigger for a Liverpool team that needs the extra space to unlock deep-lying defences.
I remember sitting in The Kop for the dreadful game against Crystal Palace last season. It was, and probably will be, the one and only time I get to enjoy Anfield. I was high up, standing and doing my best to sing while also not tumbling over the seats in front. The game was a dire affair, one of the low points of the season. Liverpool couldn’t break Palace down. Sam Allardyce’s pub football had neutralised Liverpool’s swashbuckling style. Coutinho couldn’t find space and Liverpool struggled to get any width with Milner only able to cut inside next to him. Each pass and move was predictable. Pace was nonexistent.
Then Moreno came on and ran. He ran as fast as he could up and down the left flank. He created space and got back to defend. He allowed Coutinho to try and work his magic. And he managed to get to the byline, something Liverpool hadn’t been able to do all game. The problem was that the change came too late. But, standing atop The Kop as Liverpool tried to surge for a late equaliser, it was evident a real left back was needed on that day.
Liverpool signed Andy Robertson from Hull City in the hopes of finding a gem in the rough. But, still, somehow Moreno has stuck around. He has chose to keep fighting for his place in the team, and sometimes it’s those players that eventually come good.
Moreno only has to look at his captain Jordan Henderson to see what is possible.