Alberto Moreno has hit back at the criticism he received at Liverpool, saying he will “go to my grave not understanding why I got all the blame”.
Moreno, 28, initially excelled at left-back as part of Jurgen Klopp’s high-octane press-and-possess system, but he soon fell down the pecking order and was ultimately supplanted by Andy Robertson, culminating in his eventual departure to Villarreal in 2019.
The four-capped Spain international was signed from boyhood club Sevilla in 2014 and he went on to make over 140 appearances across all competitions at Anfield, but a lack of consistency and one or two injury problems ultimately divided opinion on the terraces, leading to criticism levelled at the buccaneering full-back.
The nadir of which came following the Reds’ 3-1 defeat to Moreno’s former club Sevilla in the 2016 Europa League final, with the polarising left-back subjected to a heavy dose of criticism in the immediate aftermath of that Basel showdown.
However, Moreno has since hit back, believing he was unfairly singled out, adding that he wasn’t sure whether it was Jurgen Klopp or the club who stopped giving him chances in the first team.
“I still don’t understand the amount of criticism,” he told The Guardian. “On the first goal they nutmegged me, sure. But I’m a defender. Players get past Sergio Ramos, the best centre-back in the world. Why can’t it happen to me?
“To this day I don’t understand why I got so, so much criticism, when the whole team didn’t play well. The finger was pointed at one player and I don’t think that’s OK. People blame you. Only you. It was like I lost the final. It’s hard. You can’t get it out of your head.
“You look at the paper, at social media – I don’t usually pay much attention to social media because it’s all so false – and read things. ‘Alberto, Alberto, Alberto, Alberto.’
“I’ll go to my grave not understanding why I got all the blame.”
Moreno added: “That’s the start of a year without playing. My relationship with Klopp was perfect. But protecting me would have meant keeping faith, giving me chances which didn’t happen.
“I don’t know if that was Klopp or the club. I got back in the Spain squad after three years and just then, I injured my ankle. That was when Andy Robertson had his chance.
“He played at such a high level and that was it; I didn’t get any more chances.”
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Moreno on injury issues and Europa League final
The 28-year-old has endured an injury-ridden existence at the Estadio de la Ceramica, recently returning to first-team duties following a protracted spell on the sidelines, in which a cruciate knee ligament injury kept him sidelined for most of this season.
The convalescing defender made a return last month and has since featured eight times, including two late cameo appearances in the Europa League semi-finals against Arsenal, but he admits his knee is still not quite fully recovered.
“My knee’s still not 100 per cent,” he said.
“I can do everything I want, but with certain movements you can feel it’s not completely right. With a long-term injury it’s more up here.”
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Moreno added that beating Manchester United in the Europa League final on Wednesday night would “round off” what has already been a historic season for Villarreal.
He continued: “We’ve made history already; if we win our names will be written into the books forever. Beating United would round it all off.
“I’ve had a rough time the last six months but I’m getting minutes again, which is a huge reward. Winning would be incredible.
“Playing again, training with my team-mates, even sitting on the bench after such a serious injury, able to experience another final, is amazing. For a year that started so badly to end like this makes it a great year.”