After laboring last season with Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan at the full back positions, Brendan Rodgers and his transfer committee have finally addressed one of Liverpool’s biggest needs: a capable full back.
After missing out on other targets such as Ryan Bertrand and Ben Davies, who went to Southampton and Tottenham, respectively, Liverpool are close to acquiring the services of Javier Manquillo and Alberto Moreno. Both players are young: Manquillo is 20, and Moreno is 22. Even though they are not big names, they fit the general type of player Rodgers is adding – young prospects who come from established clubs.
Although they play different positions (Manquillo is a right back and Moreno is a left back), they are exactly what the Reds need. It should also be noted that Manquillo may join only on loan, with an option of around £5 million to keep him as a permanent transfer, according to the Guardian. Liverpool would reportedly have to pay £20 million for Alberto Moreno. Liverpool executive Ian Arye was sent to Spain to complete the deals.
Manquillo is a mystery man. He only made three appearances for Atletico Madrid last season. However, he has been a fixture for the Spanish under-19, where he won the UEFA Championship and under-20 teams. Just like other Spanish full backs, Jordi Alba and César Azpilicueta, Manquillo enjoys bursting down his flank to be an extra attacker that the opposition has to worry about. He is especially adept at timing his run to get behind his defender, allowing him to have some space to cross or shoot the ball.
However, he still needs to work on his crossing, as he sometimes gets too excited after he receives the ball, resulting in both a bad pass and a wasted opportunity. His style of defending is direct and tough. He does not wait for the attacker to come towards him. Manquillo often meets the opponent far from the net, where his ability to tackle standing up is valuable. If he misses the initial tackle, Manquillo can recover easily as he is not on the ground.
The Spaniard also has the intangibles to succeed in the rigors of the Premier League: he is a fighter who doesn’t complain when he losses the ball, rather, he tries his best to get it back.
Moreno is the more experienced player. He was a starter in Sevilla’s lineup at left back, but if needed, he could also be pushed farther up the pitch as an attacking midfielder. He was a part of Spain’s Under-21 UEFA Championship winning team, alongside other talents such as Asier Illarramendi, Isco, and Alvaro Morata. After excelling during the competition, he was named to the team of the tournament as one of eleven players to make it from the Spanish squad.
He looks to be the one who will be getting more playing time, even though he will be competing with José Enrique and Jon Flanagan, who – despite being brought up as a right back – played mostly on the left side last season, after Enrique’s many injuries kept him from playing.
Moreno is a very fast player. He uses his speed to great effect in both attacking and defending. Despite being a defender, he can strike the ball very well, especially from a distance. This allowed him to score three goals for his club last season. Just like the previously mentioned Jordi Alba, Moreno is also a strong dribbler, able to get around defenders with various flicks and feints. Unlike his compatriot Manquillo, Moreno crosses the ball much better; he uses low crosses when coming from outside the box and is not afraid to hit cross field passes if he spots an open teammate.
For his style of defending, Moreno often stays behind the man he’s marking when his opponent does not have the ball. This allows him to have a running start when he intercepts the ball, which starts a quick counter-attack.
Overall, both players would be fantastic additions to Liverpool. Both are quick, attack-minded players who fit the Liverpool style of play. They also allow Rodgers to sell Glen Johnson to any willing clubs, as he is on the downward slope of his career. Johnson is 29 years old, an age where some of the speed that is so integral to his game starts to fade. Inserting Moreno to the lineup also allows Flanagan to return to right back, where he could continue to develop into a capable starter.