Hector Moreno: Why Swansea & Cardiff Will Go To War Over The Centre-Half...
The queue of Premier League clubs waiting to snap up the best of the rest from La Liga continues with Premiership new-boys Cardiff City and their rivals Swansea lining up Espanyol centre-back Hector Moreno. The Mexican international has been a pillar of consistency for the Catalans during the past two seasons when much at the club has been far from stable.
Moreno was brought to the club by now Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino after impressing during a four-year spell with Dutch side AZ Alkmaar and helping his country to Gold Cup success in the summer of 2011.
The 25-year-old's debut season in La Liga went as well as could have possibly been expected as he was elected as Espanyol's player of the season and Los Pericos were in the running for a European place for the majority of the campaign before a late season dip in form saw them slip into the bottom half.
That poor form continued into the start of the 2012-13 season when after just two wins from their opening 14 games, Pochettino was sacked amongst ongoing institutional unrest at board level. However, Moreno, and the squad in general, were rejuvenated by the appointment of fellow Mexican Javier Aguirre as manager last November.
After a 4-0 thumping in a baptism of fire for the former Atletico Madrid boss away at Barcelona, Espanyol reeled of four wins and a draw from their next five league games to pull them clear of the relegation zone and ended the season comfortably in 13th.
At 6ft tall and nearly 13 stone, Moreno is well-equipped physically to handle the rigours of the Premier League, but it is also his ability to play the ball from the back that will have pricked the interest of Cardiff manager Malky Mackay.
The combination of an unbalanced TV deal in Spain - where Real Madrid and Barcelona receive around 50% of the total income - added to falling attendances and income from sponsors caused by the financial crisis means that even less established Premier League clubs, flushed with cash from the implementation of a new bumper TV rights contract, can dwarf the salaries on offer at Spanish clubs outwith the top two.
The fact that Cardiff have reportedly offered around £4m for Moreno, less than half of what they have paid for a highly promising, but as yet unproven talent in Steven Caulker is a case in point.
By contrast Moreno has already represented his country 46 times, including at the 2010 World Cup and this summer's Confederations Cup and also has the experience of facing up to the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Radamel Falcao over the past two seasons. With all that said, there could still be an issue for the Welsh duo when it comes to agreeing a price with the Spanish club. La Liga sides are quickly becoming wise to the amount of money burning holes in the Premier League club's pockets and have started to be a bit more forceful in negotiations, knowing they will eventually get the price they desire.
Valencia's stance in the transfer of Roberto Soldado was just the latest example with the £26m that Spurs ended up splashing out taking the total amount in transfer fees heading to Spain from England and Wales this summer past the £100m mark.
Espanyol are thought to be holding out for a fee in the region of £7m for their prized asset and the interest of Russian side Rubin Kazan could well push the biding for Moreno closer to that figure. The ambitious Malaysian owners of Cardiff have a range of established international targets on their radar including Oscar Cardozo and Etienne Capoue, but the tough-tackling Moreno should certainly be at the top of their list.