El Centrocampista

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO JAVI MORENO?

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By Sam Hughes

Back in 2001, big clubs across Europe were vying for the signature of a star Spanish striker who had scored 21 league goals and helped his team to a European cup final. 

Barcelona and Valencia were favourites but, in the end, AC Milan beat both Spanish sides with a £5.6 million deal for the player.

Alongside his new strike partners – Shevchenko and Inzaghi – the new acquisition seemed likely to set the Rossoneri alight with his goal scoring prowess.

Years later, though, the same man was deemed surplus to requirements at Bolton Wanderers.

So, what exactly happened to Javi Moreno?

After beginning his professional career at FC Barcelona B, he moved through a couple of lower league clubs before signing for Deportivo Alavés.

Following an uninspiring spell in the Basque Country  he joined CD Numancia where Moreno first hit some real form, as his goals – 18 in 39 appearances – helped them to promotion to La Liga in the 98/99 season.

The performances convinced Alavés to offer him a second spell and Moreno became the one of the main men in a team that shocked and surprised throughout the 2000/01 season by reaching the UEFA Cup Final in 2001.

Although Alavés did narrowly lose 4-5 in a thrilling final to Liverpool, Moreno bagged two goals in three minutes and Europe took notice.

The Spanish international was a hard worker with a composed finished, and  his relatively cheap release fee caused a scramble for his signature

When the move was confirmed, AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani excitedly described his new signing as: a physically strong front striker, who reminds you a bit of Gerd Muller and a bit of Boninsegna.” 

High praise, indeed, but this was about as good as it got for Moreno during his time in Milan.

The rigid, physical and tactical battles of Serie A proved too much for Moreno as he struggled to impose himself at the San Siro.

The game became too demanding and the Spanish striker, who was a self-confessed over-eater and lover of a relaxed lifestyle, struggled to stay sharp enough to earn a place in the starting line-up.

His solitary season in Italy ended with 16 appearances and just two goals to show for it.

Both he and AC Milan sought to end the disaster as soon as possible.

A move back home to the newly promoted Atletico Madrid was finalised and Moreno was expected to hit the dizzy heights of his Alavés days once again.

Things did not materialise as planned though and the familiar surroundings did not quite have the desired effect.

Goals were still hard to come by as lifestyle problems and weight issues became a problem for the player.

Moreno struggled to establish himself in the side and the emergence of a young Fernando Torres added to his problems.

He was offered the chance to find form by perennial career resurrector Sam Allardyce at Bolton Wanderers but, by then, he seemed to be unable to cut it in the top divisions of the game any longer.

He appeared sparingly as David Villa’s understudy at Real Zaragoza before finally dropping down the divisions to his old club Córdoba CF.

He found his level at the Andalusian club and helped them to promotion with 24 goals in 32 appearances in Segunda Division B.

His career ended in 2010 after the obligatory tour at a couple of lower league clubs.

Unfortunately for Javi Moreno, his exploits for Alavés proved to be the beginning of the end rather than a springboard to go onto greater things.

Perhaps he overachieved by scoring so many goals in La Liga and Europe for that one season.

His performances were certainly writing cheques that his talent couldn’t quite cash.

It does seem as though Moreno had come to a similar conclusion, in an interview with Spanish TV he said of his big move to Milan: “You need something extra to triumph at a club like that and I probably didn’t have it. I’m not ashamed to say it, but maybe it was all too much for me.”

He may well have lacked that ‘something extra’ but Moreno can still say he was once one of the most coveted strikers in Europe, a Spanish international and even played with two of the best strikers in world football – Fernando Torres and David Villa.

Not too bad for a one-season wonder.

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