Sevilla's players crowded around Alberto Moreno as tears ran down his cheeks in Cardiff. He wasn't crying because he hadn't been involved in the European Super Cup final, though, nor because Unai Emery's men had been beaten 2-0 by Real Madrid. Moreno was choking up because this was goodbye.
The 22-year-old is the latest player to come through the youth system at Sevilla and be sold for big money. Jose Antonio Reyes, Sergio Ramos and Jesus Navas are some to have gone before him; now Moreno will swap Andalusia for Liverpool, where he is expected to become Brendan Rodgers's first choice left-back.
Passing v Elche in final game of La Liga season
It's little more than two years since he made his debut in the Sevilla's first team, coming on as a second-half substitute against Athletic Club in April of 2012. He had to wait nearly a whole year until his next taste of La Liga football, but since February 2013 his ascent has been as rapid as his move to a bigger club was predictable. Liverpool are the side who will now benefit from having the Spanish international in their ranks, although it could have been Real Madrid last summer if reports are to be believed.
Establishing himself in the starting line-up after Emery was handed the job as manager, Moreno finished the 2012/13 season playing in 15 of Sevilla's final 16 league games - he hadn't played in any previously. Already highly rated across Spain, his performances at the tail end of that campaign confirmed his talent. A gnarly defender and one often described as a terrier, Moreno, who stands at 5’7”, picked up five bookings during those appearances as he demonstrated, despite his age, he wasn't afraid to get stuck in.
That summer, he was an undisputed starter in the Spain U-21 team which won the European Championships in Israel. By October of the same year, he was a full international. With Jordi Alba injured, Vicente del Bosque's preferred back-up was Moreno, and he took his La Roja bow against Georgia in a World Cup qualifier. Moreno has since made two more appearances for Spain, although, despite having been named in the provisional 30-man squad, he missed out on a spot on the plane to Brazil.
However, it is his form for Sevilla which alerted Europe's finest. Emery is a fan of rotation, so it says a lot about Moreno that he started 27 matches and made two more substitute appearances last season. And, once again, his tenacity was on show. Flying in for tackles regularly, he won 38 out of 96 and made 32 fouls, picking up a handful of bookings and one red card for his troubles.
Moreno, who was born in Seville, is more than just a teeth-bearing full-back though; he can get forward too. He's not an Alba clone, but he is quick, good with the ball and 33 successful take-ons in La Liga last term reveal he's not afraid to beat a man either. He was denied any assists - although he did score three goals - but over well over 40 percent of his key passes came from wide on the left in the final third of the pitch.
Eighteen months ago Moreno had made just one top flight appearance for Sevilla. But on Tuesday night, the admiration showed to him by his now former teammates showed how far he has come since then. Liverpool will hope for even more progress over the next 18 months.
- Sports & Recreation
- Alberto Moreno
- Real Madrid
- Unai Emery
- La Liga