Alberto Moreno - A Man Reborn
If you want to find the best possible example of a stubborn football fan, find someone who really, really doesn’t rate Alberto Moreno.
We live in an age where we all pride ourselves on being right about certain players, managers and teams, and admitting you may have actually been wrong about one, or simply giving them praise or criticising them, seems impossible.
This is painfully apparent with Moreno, who has gained a legion of loyal haters incapable of doing anything other than slate him.
It is wholly understandable why the Spaniard has had his detractors since becoming a Liverpool player three years ago – I have been very vocal about some his past misdemeanours – and some of the flack he has taken has been brought on himself.
For parts of his Reds career, he has been a disaster area, making brain-dead decisions defensively, not offering enough going forward and appearing to lack focus.
That clip of him flipping a water bottle instead of watching the game against Southampton in May summed him up.
At the end of last season, Moreno looked as likely to leave Liverpool as almost any player in history, with James Milner preferred to him and supporters desperate for a new natural left-back to come in.
Jurgen Klopp had seemingly lost all faith in the 25-year-old, and very few were complaining about his inevitable exit. He’d had his chance and not taken it.
From nowhere, though, the Spaniard has enjoyed one of the most unlikely turnarounds you could wish to see, cementing his place as first-choice left-back and being one of Liverpool’s most consistent players so far this season.
The biggest compliment you could pay Moreno is that if he was a summer signing, he would be earning rave reviews.
Milner has been put back into midfield, much to his delight, and Andrew Robertson is being eased into life on Merseyside, and it has allowed Moreno to go from strength to strength, growing in stature by the game.
He has started 14 of Liverpool’s 17 matches in 2017/18, and it is hard to think of a single time he has let the side down. Has there been a lower than six-out-of-10 performance?
The former Sevilla man has, admittedly, been part of a defence that has leaked goals, but he has been the least culpable by some distance.
Dejan Lovren has been indescribably poor, Joel Matip has been comfortably worse than he was last season and Ragnar Klavan is not good enough.
Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold are two young players of vast potential, but both have had their moments in the last few months, despite also flourishing.
Moreno’s critics will try to claim he has made plenty of ‘mistakes’, but give or take the odd minor gaffe that the majority of full-backs will encounter from time to time, he has been an extremely solid performer.
His previous crazy decision-making is nowhere to be seen, his work in the attacking third has gone up a gear – he has the joint-most assists in the Champions League this season, alongside Kylian Mbappe and Ricardo Quaresma – and he is cutting a far more mature figure.
The hope is that he realised he needed to knuckle down just before he was shown the Anfield exit door, and that we are now seeing someone focused solely on their football.
Confidence is certainly playing a part, as it does with any player, and when Moreno takes to the field now, you don’t watch him with the same level of dread. He is more measured and authoritative.
This is the player that was rated so highly when he joined from Sevilla in the summer of 2014, and hopefully, this is a run that becomes long-term rather a brief renaissance.
Sadly, some fans just have too much personal pride and are unwilling to give Moreno even an ounce of praise for his impressive form.
They have made their minds up about him, regardless of what does in a Liverpool shirt between now and whenever he leaves – see also: Jordan Henderson and Emre Can, among others – and all it does is lose them respect from fellow supporters.
If you can’t see how much Moreno has improved this season, and are waiting in the wings to throw vitriol in his direction when his mistake does come, take a look at yourself.
Is Moreno the definite long-term option moving forward? No. He needs to play like this for a more extended period to prove that, and Robertson may well usurp him once he has adjusted to life under Klopp.
What cannot be denied, however, is that he has shone since August, showing the type of character and quality many didn’t think he had.
We’re roughly a quarter of the way through the campaign, and Moreno would be in contention of Liverpool’s Player of the Year So Far award.
He wouldn’t win it, with Mohamed Salah the frontrunner in that respect, but have there really been any better on a consistent basis?
Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane have had moments of brilliance but been in and out of the team, Roberto Firmino hasn’t yet hit top gear and the midfielders have all been adequate rather than impressive.
The haters will no doubt be fuming to hear this sort of opinion, but they will never warm to Moreno, even if he scores a Champions League final hat-trick.
That’s their problem, but it’s a real shame they can’t heap praise on one of their own, even if it means accepting they might have been at least slightly wrong about him.
Fair play to you, Albie – keep up the good work.