Alberto Moreno Pérez put pen to paper in Vila-real in July 2019, signing a five-year deal following his release from Liverpool a month prior. Just over 14 months later however, the Andalusian was struck with a devastating cruciate ligament injury to his left knee, which saw poor Alberto sidelined for an estimated six months, yet he couldn’t have wished for a better return as he scored one of Villarreal’s 11 penalties that projected them to the historic capture of the 2021 Europa League title, toppling Manchester United, his old rivals.
Officially, many would know Alberto as a left-back, yet since his return it’s been made clear that Emery trusts him in practically every part of the pitch. Unai already had the headache of picking between Alfonso Pedraza and Pervis Estupiñan at left-back, so transforming the returning Alberto Moreno into the perfect todoterreno was a change that we didn’t even know we needed.
To put it candidly, Alberto Moreno’s sudden adaptability has possibly solved many problems that Villarreal have within their ranks; as already touched upon, he can now be taken out of the left-back equation which is a collective benefit and one for him on a personal level as his progress through his prime years would’ve stagnated without sufficient game-time, also permitting the progression of Estupiñan and Pedraza to flourish.
Emery has utilized Moreno in central-midfield on occasions this season as there is a decent balance between offensive and defensive capabilities in Alberto’s locker, nothing that hasn’t been seen before during Unai Emery’s tenure here as he used Jaume Costa in a similar fashion prior to his departure to Mallorca. Given the fact that that Capoue, Parejo, Iborra, Trigueros and Coquelin have all already surpassed the age of 30, having another name in the mix allows for healthy squad rotation. The 29 year-old’s most notable performance in midfield this season was the Champions League game against Young Boys in Switzerland; Moreno replaced Coquelin in the centre of the park in the 70th minute and grabbed a goal 18 minutes later.
Moreno’s showing at La Cerámica against the champions, Atleti, on Sunday exhibited an aura of liberation as you could infer from his celebration that he was enjoying himself as much as he could. He was untouchable up until his substituiton and the Atlético back-line just didn’t know how to deal with him. He started the game as a wide-midfielder, but he would drift between that and striker, working in tandom with Gerard Moreno, who would eventually link up with Alberto for his goal, igniting a duo that some fans on social media have dubbed the ‘Moreno & Moreno connection’.
With the African Cup of Nations well and truly underway and Villarreal suffering a few important casualties at the hands of the competition, this is Alberto Moreno’s perfect opportunity to take advantage of a lack of personnel in certain areas. With the absences of in-form Boulaye Dia and Samuel Chukwueze, Alberto Moreno coped perfectly with filling their boots against Los Colchoneros and with games against Elche and Mallorca on the horizon, there is a real chance for Alberto to shine in the midst of many important absences.
It’s an exciting time to be a Villarreal fan right now, despite the loss of 2 points on Sunday evening, a resurgence in form has filled the fanbase with optimisim, especially with the anticipated Champions League tie against Juventus coming up along with some LaLiga fixtures that can supply a healthy sum of points if the team play their cards right. Additionally, it’s also an exciting time to be Alberto Moreno as his form his picking up game-by-game and there’s more opportunity for him to show the world what he’s about than ever before.