Since Spanish left-back Alberto Moreno arrived on Merseyside in the summer of 2014, the former Sevilla player has become one of the more divisive figures on the side, both amongst fans and also (seemingly) management.
Liverpool penned a deal for Moreno’s signature on August 12 for a reported sum of £12 million following an arduous month and a half of negotiations with his childhood side, Sevilla.
Just 22-years-old at the time of signing, Moreno was highly touted by scouts and pundits alike, many tipping the Seville-born man to become the future of Spain’s defensive line.
A man of blistering pace and the ability to chip in with a goal every so often, many Liverpool supporters were hoping Moreno would invigorate the back line of Brendan Rodgers’ side and have an impact akin to another former Sevilla player, Dani Alves after the Brazilian joined Barcelona in 2008.
And after his first games as a Liverpool player a number of fans were convinced that the Reds had acquired a world class prospect in Moreno. In just his second game in a red shirt Rodger’s men paid a visit to a then-undefeated Spurs side at White Hart Lane.
In what was seemingly an all too routine visit to the Londoners, Rodgers’ side played Tottenham off the park, cruising to an impressive 3-0. However, it was Moreno’s first goal for the visitors than truly stole the show.
After dispossessing Andros Townsend just inside Liverpool’s half, the Spaniard put his impressive speed to use, racing down the wing and away from the Spurs defence, he would cover some 50 yards before blasting the ball beyond an outstretched Hugo Lloris to notch his first Liverpool goal in style.
From there it seemed the young full back had already established himself as something of a cult-hero at Anfield, looking and playing the part on the pitch and endearing fans to him via social media off the pitch.
It’s undoubtedly every football supporters dream to find a pacey, attacking full-back who’s capable of scoring and assisting goals, yet isn’t shy of getting stuck into a heavy tackle when his team is on the back foot, and it seemed Albie Moreno was the perfect candidate.
However, somewhere along the way it seemed he lost his touch. The attacking mindset of the former Sevilla man seemed to start taking priority over his defensive duties and subsequently, the Liverpool defence started to leak goals.
All too often it seemed Moreno was out of position, about 50 yards too far up the pitch when the opposition was breaking away. If not that it would be silly fouls given away in dangerous positions, putting the defence in jeopardy for no apparent reason.
In the summer of 2015, Liverpool signed Charlton and England starlet Joe Gomez who promptly replaced Moreno at left-back following a series of impressive pre-season performances from the new boy.
However it was not long until Moreno returned to the starting XI as Gomez was sidelined for the remainder of the season with an ACL injury.
With a change of management later that year, the Spaniard maintained his place in the team, as Jürgen Klopp replaced Brendan Rodgers at the helm at Anfield.
That season the Reds reached two cup finals, a League Cup final against Manchester City, and a Europa League final against non other than Moreno’s former team and winners from the past two seasons, Sevilla.
In many instances it can be a former player that delivers a standout performance in these such matches. Not so for Moreno.
At fault and out of position for arguably all 3 of the Sevilla goals, ‘Bert had a shocker in one of the biggest games of his career and subsequently lost the hearts of even some of his fiercest and most loyal fans.
Moreno has since been dropped from the starting XI by Klopp after an almost equally bad start to the 2016/17 season in the 4-3 win at Arsenal. From there the Liverpool boss has opted to play James Milner at left-back instead.
Throughout this season the once highly rated defender has rarely made an appearance for the Reds, playing only when injuries and/or suspensions thrust him into the side, or when the occasion called for him, i.e. Cup games.
So is there any way back for Moreno at Liverpool, and moreover, is he capable of winning the fans over once more?
It does bear to mention that once upon a time Liverpool’s ailing left-back used to play on the wing, clearly a position that suited him well with his attacking mentality and pace, yet his coaches foresaw him being better suited at full back, henceforth from that day, the young lad has played as a defender.
It would only be fair to give Albie a chance to find his feet again, and what better opportunity to do so than by playing on the wing.
Moreno is still relatively young at 24-years-old and has much to prove, it would be regrettable to pass up on what could potentially be an incredibly gifted player.
Thoughts of Gareth Bale spring to mind when thinking of failed full-backs who thrived in more advanced roles. Much like Moreno, the Welshman was considered a flop during his time in defence for Spurs. However, after he was moved into a more attacking role by Andre Villas Boas he thrived in the Premier League before making a highly coveted move to Real Madrid for £85 million in 2013.
Moreno has shown glimpses of his quality as recent as this season in the 4-2 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, while ineffective in defence, his performance going forward was first rate and proved to be the catalyst for Emre Can’s opener.
While his ability and value as a player certainly increases as he is played further up the field, it does beg the question where would Moreno fit into Klopp’s plans as a more attacking player?
Competing against the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané et al is no less than a daunting prospect, yet it could be a challenge that the exiled Spaniard may yet be capable of rising to.