Hector Moreno: El Tractor strengthens PSV’s engine

The exodus from PSV following their incredible Eredivisie title win last season was relatively small and easily dealt with. While pivotal players in their walk to the championship, the summer departures of Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum were expected even before they penned contract extensions at the start of the 2014-15 campaign. The Eindhoven side have otherwise held onto key men Luuk de Jong, Adam Maher, Jetro Willems and Jeffrey Bruma, while the loan moves of Andres Guardado and Nicolas Isimat-Mirin were made permanent.

However, there was one other young player that PSV were hopeful of keeping but were ultimately unable to lock down.

Try as they might, Phillip Cocu’s men could not afford to bring Karim Rekik back from Manchester City on a permanent basis and so he ended up joining Marseille. The 20-year-old defender was a key player alongside Jeffrey Bruma last term, generally the more commanding and resolute of the two in a very young back line.

Surprisingly, though, the move has proved to work out in PSV’s favour, as they have acted smoothly in replacing him with Mexico international Hector Moreno, who signed a four year deal with the Eindhoven side on Saturday to complete his move from Espanyol.

The experience and leadership of Moreno in the backline will be very useful for Cocu. Isimat-Mirin is still a raw talent and while Bruma is improving, he will benefit from having a more assured defender beside him.

Isimat-Mirin and Bruma could prove to be a tempting centre-back pairing for the coach, but the incorporation of a veteran like Moreno would be hard to pass up as he would help stabilise a defence which has shown a vulnerability when pressed around the centre of the box.

In a sense, it is a surprise move from a player who was recently coveted by Premier League sides. However, a change in circumstances through injury makes the move to Eindhoven a prosperous deal for him, as he admits: “I’m just happy to be here,” he told PSV’s official website. “This is a good step. At PSV I can fight for the Eredivisie title and play in the Champions League.”

Another positive for both parties is that he will not need a lot of time to settle – the transfer is not a step into the unknown for Moreno, who started his European adventure in Netherlands with AZ as a youngster.

The Alkmaar club snapped him up at just 19 years of age, by which time Moreno already had a significant amount of attention surrounding him. The left-footed centre-back helped carry El Tri’s youth squad to an U17 World Cup title in 2005 and the quarter-finals of the 2007 U20 tournament. With his club, Pumas, he quickly made his way up the ranks of the Mexico City side and was a regular starter by the 2007 Apertura season.

With an exciting amount of potential – and the occasional goal – it was no wonder that AZ made a move for him in December 2007 and with the Dutch side, Moreno developed into a stronger player and gained the trust of then-coach Louis Van Gaal.

Although he was injured for a good portion of the year, the young defender helped the Alkmaar club to the league title in 2008-09 season. The following season, under the new direction of Ronald Koeman and later Dick Advocaat, Moreno’s status grew significantly as he gained regular playing time in the backline.

Moreno appeared to be the next great defender for Mexico as he became a key player for El Tri and eventually made the jump to La Liga with Espanyol during the summer of 2011.

Despite Espanyol being stuck in mid-table throughout his four year spell there, El Tractor was still able to stand out with his consistent performances through his aerial strength, well-timed tackles, and powerful headers.

It seemed that a move to a bigger club was on the cards, with Tottenham, Arsenal, and Barcelona all linked to the defender. Unfortunately, injuries at the start of the 2013-14 season and this summer dashed his hopes of another step up.

He may have had dreams of a more prestigious club with a greater stature in the current European climate of club football, but the opportunity to play in the Champions League with a very talented PSV side is a great one.

Rekik is promising and was an important defender for PSV, but at 27, Moreno is a more established player currently playing to a higher level than the talented youngster and the Mexican should have no trouble transitioning into a regular role for the Eredivisie champions.

Since his last venture in the Eredivisie, the defender has continued to improve in the aerial side of his game and is now a bigger threat at set-pieces. Also, at 27, he still has not reached his peak as a centre back.

There is also of course the connection that the defender will have with fellow Mexican international, Andres Guardado. The former Valencia player was hopeful PSV would sign his compatriot, stating that the defender would “help a lot”, while Moreno admitted that it “is nice to be playing with Guardado”.

With El Tri, both players have been vital cogs for the squad in the 2010 World Cup, the title-winning 2011 Concacaf Gold Cup, the 2013 Confederations Cup, and the 2014 World Cup. Both were also supposed to play together in the 2015 Gold Cup, but a small injury and subsequent surgery kept Moreno out of the competition in which Guardado was crucial.

It’s an appealing opportunity for both players and there would be no lack of even more Mexican eyes watching PSV this season.

The 27 year-old will return to the league with much more experience and with a fellow Mexican international at his side.

It’s a move that will strengthen the PSV defence significantly, while playing alongside an established figure like Moreno will help Bruma and Isimat-Mirin develop and learn. And for the player himself, it is a nice step towards European football and further league titles. The perfect transfer for all involved.

Cesar Hernandez is a Mexican football expert who writes for ESPN FC and is a guest/host of the Mexican Soccer Show. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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