After experience at the top level and impressing with consistent performances, Alberto Moreno has been in demand across Europe. Adam Gray has a look at the young Spanish left-back from Sevilla in this Scout Report.
Alberto Moreno Perez missed just one game in Spain’s victorious campaign at last year’s under-21 European Championship, a final group game dead-rubber with the Netherlands, otherwise featuring in every minute as La Rojita showcased their next generation of talent by defending the championship they had won 2 years earlier in 2011.
Moreno, along with Daniel Carvajal and Koke, is 1 of just 3 outfield players from that squad to have been named in Vincent Del Bosque’s initial 30-man selection prior to the summer’s World Cup in Brazil. It capped off a superb season for the 21 year old left-back which had taken in 44 matches right from the 1-0 victory over Russia in Jerusalem last June to May’s Europa League final which he won with Sevilla in Lisbon.
After making 29 appearances for Sevilla in La Liga, Moreno was named in Spain’s 30 man squad as they embarked on the ultimate failed attempt at defending their World Cup trophy, but unfortunately missed the cut as Del Bosque trimmed the number down to 23. Despite that setback, Moreno’s breakthrough year suggests a very bright future for the Andalusian left-back.
Who is Alberto Moreno?
A truly home-grown product born in Seville, Moreno won the Danone National Cup with Spain as 12 year old alongside Liverpool striker Luis Alberto. A year later, he signed for his hometown club aged 13, spending his first season as a senior member of Sevilla’s reserve side, Sevilla Atletico, in the Spanish third division.
During his time with the reserves, Moreno was taught tactical awareness by coach Ramon Tejada who rotated him between his natural defensive position and a more attacking role. As a result he became increasingly disciplined from following his coach’s orders, as well as adding different dynamics to his game. He developed both a defensive nous and an attacking instinct, a clever move as the modern game was beginning to see an increasing trend of full-backs who are adept at going forward.
Fast forward seven years and Moreno, who was promoted from Sevilla’s reserve side to their B team in 2011, was handed his first-team debut in April 2012, coming on for Manu Del Moral as Sevilla slipped to a 1-0 defeat to Athletic Bilbao. That was under the guise of then-manager Michel who departed for Olympiakos in 2013 with Sevilla riddled with debts. Moreno was a survivor from club president Jose Maria Del Nido’s threat to put all members of the squad up for sale.
The season prior to Michel’s exit, Moreno had managed 15 La Liga appearances, 12 of them starts, as he started to lay claim to a more regular role in Los Rojiblancos’ squad. After managing to break his way into the club’s first team plans, he acknowledged that playing in the senior side was akin to “living in a bubble”, but recognised that he would have to “continue to work and have confidence in order to settle into the first team”.
His breakthrough moment came last summer when Sevilla’s troublesome financial situation forced them to sell the likes of Alvaro Negredo, Gary Medel and Jesus Navas, as well as the two left-sided players Luis Alberto and Antonio Luna who both moved to England. Moreno, who was exposing his burgeoning talent out in Israel with the victorious under-21s, was kept on and under new manager Unai Emery he was set to thrive as he was installed as first choice ahead of Fernando Navarro.
The 21 year old totalled 35 starts this past season, with 4 more as a substitute, mostly coming at his natural home of left-back as Sevilla narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification with a fifth placed league finish.
10 of his appearances came on the continent however as he helped his club to Europa League glory, going on to play the whole match as Emery’s men took the trophy by overcoming Benfica on penalties. Last October he made his first appearance for Spain, becoming the 37th debutant in Del Bosque’s era, playing the full 90 minutes as Spain beat Georgia 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier.
Having won another cap since then, and having played the full 90 minutes of the World Cup warm-up friendly against Bolivia, he appears to have nudged ahead of Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal as Spain’s cover option at left-back for the long-term. Though his excellent form has not been enough to dislodge Barcelona’s Jordi Alba in La Seleccion as Del Bosque saw room for just one left back in his World Cup squad.
Style, Strengths, and Weaknesses
What stands out from Moreno’s diminutive 5ft 7inch build is his remarkable energy that allows him to constantly charge forward on the left flank. His natural style of play is more like an auxiliary winger, liking to join attacks whenever he can in order to offer support to his winger, most often on the overlap. His electric pace and sharp movement is a huge asset here as he commits defenders, creating space on the wing for him and his teammates to charge into.
Once in the final third Moreno likes to cross, shown by 48 attempted crosses in La Liga this season as well as the 24 he attempted in the Europa League. However, having completed just 16 of those 48 in the league and seeing an even poorer success rate in European competition with just 4 out of 24 crosses completed, as well as a failure to make more than just 1 assist in 39 appearances suggests he needs to work on his final ball.
His 19 chances created from left-back indicates his effectiveness when providing for others however while a sweet left foot also compliments an eye for goal. Despite a shot on target percentage of just 29% this term, Moreno is not averse to letting fly when in dangerous areas and his season tally of 3 goals has included strikes against Valladolid and Barcelona that demonstrate a powerful, opportunistic eye for goal that will only improve as he matures as a player.
His ability to score goals is a talent honed in Sevilla’s reserve team where he managed to strike 6 goals in 49 appearances for Sevilla B between 2011 and his promotion to the first team in 2013.
From these traits form a portrayal of a full-back harnessing a potential that is perhaps still raw and sometimes subject to poor decision making. He is a perfect embodiment of a modern full-back however, one willing to continuously get forward and carry the ball to link-up with his midfielders in advanced areas.
He is both a huge asset to a team operating on the counter-attack, making use of his speed to cover ground quickly, while also to one who prioritises ball retention, appearing comfortable on the ball and providing width if any of his central players require an “out-ball” to play themselves out of tightly-marked zones.
As well as being very adept at going forward, Moreno can also defend, though he favours to avoid diving into the tackle and instead prefers to use his positioning in order to cut out play and make interceptions, which account for 48%, a total of 73, of his defensive actions over the course of last season.
The left-back can also tackle but having won just 38 out of 96 attempted last year implies it is not his favoured way of winning the ball back. He does have to work on his discipline however, having committed 30 fouls last term, from which he received 9 yellow cards and a red card for a late challenge on Gabi in the match with Atletico Madrid.
Another weakness of Moreno’s is his aerial disadvantage which teams have been known to target with his small frame struggling when it comes to challenging for the ball in the air. His determination does attempt to make up for it however, with 24/50 aerial duels won in La Liga last season, a higher number than would be predicted when considering he stands at just 5 ft 7.
Here’s what Graham Ruthven, freelance writer at ESPN, FourFourTwo, New York Times (among others), told Outside of the Boot about Alberto Moreno. Follow Graham on Twitter here, you can also read all his work on his blog.
“In a summer which is set to see several left-backs switch clubs, Alberto Moreno could be the best of the lot. He possesses the kind of pace and dribbling ability normally only seen in wingers, making him the perfect modern day full-back. Moreno won’t be at Sevilla for much longer, with some of Europe’s best chasing his signature.
However, he also fits into the modern full-back role in the sense that defence isn’t his strongest attribute, although his positioning often makes up for his lack of strength in the tackle. At just 22 he represents a shrewd investment in the future for whichever club signs him, and he’ll cost a lot less than the £27.5 million Manchester United paid for Luke Shaw.”
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