The 2020-21 Belgian First Division B season marked one of significant progress for Lommel SK.
While they may have just missed out on a promotion play-off, losing momentum towards the end of the campaign to finish third, the signs of a future tilt towards the top are promising.
A significant part of that success has come from City loanee Marlos Moreno, a player whose South American flair swiftly brought a sleepy municipality tucked away inside the Belgian province of Limburg, to life.
"A lethal weapon in Lommel’s arsenal"
Style of Play
A direct and explosive winger, Marlos Moreno’s technical ability and natural pace are often the catalyst to snap a potentially faltering performance into fifth gear.
Capable of attacking space in behind defences and getting the opposition facing their own goal, the Colombian has proven a critical asset for Lommel SK during his time in Belgium.
His positive play and direct approach also means that Moreno often forces his markers into rash challenges, drawing fouls and winning free-kicks in dangerous areas.
However, the wide man’s ability to cut inside and get involved in build-up play from a central position means he is far from a player falling into the bracket of a ‘traditional winger’.
Comfortable striking a ball on either foot, the Colombian often drifts away from the touchline to offer a creative spark or get on the end of chances with great aplomb.
He always wants to get involved, and is comfortable in picking up play in dangerous areas or when being tightly marked, which was often the case during his stint in Belgium.
These qualities made him a constant outlet for teammates and, in the case of quick turnovers, a lethal weapon in Lommel’s arsenal if looking to launch a counter attack.
"Little by little, I can show the sort of person I am"
In his own words
Having previously played in Spain, Mexico, Colombia and Portugal, a stint in Belgium was a totally new experience for Moreno to sink his teeth into.
The winger openly admits he needed time to adapt to his new surroundings but believes that the regular playing time he was afforded brought the best out of him.
“I’ve learned a lot this season I’m very happy to be able to play regularly again,” he reflects on his loan stint.
“I think I’ve developed a lot over the last season.
“I thought it was going to be difficult for a few moments for me to adapt because of the weather, the language, everything was different from other countries that I have previously been in.
“But I think with the help of my teammates and the coaching staff, I settled down very well and I think things have gone well for me this season.
“I was very confident in my skills have been able to develop, that’s very important for a player.”
“Personally, I tried to give the best of me, I gained a lot of confidence in my game, I hadn’t felt like this for a long time and for moments I played the way I always wanted to show.
“I still think I’m not as my best yet but little by little I can show the sort of person I am.”
While Lommel ultimately just missed out on a promotion play-off to reach the top flight, Moreno believes the team have come on leaps and bounds during his loan spell.
He also looks back fondly on his time in Belgium, highlighting the importance of the collective ethic in the team, which ultimately helped him thrive.
“I think there’s a lot of things we can highlight from this season for the group, it’s been a nice group, a nice team,” he said.
"We work very hard, it’s a very humble team. I think we have a good approach for the games.
“Obviously it was a bit disappointing that we couldn’t finish in the top two positions which was the main goal but I think the team and my teammates worked hard.
“(But) now it’s time to be focused, try to keep working and give the best of me. And if I do things well, little by little things will happen.”
"He's ready for the next big step"
Sven Claes is a freelance Belgian football journalist who has covered Lommel SK for HBVL.
His assessment of Moreno’s impact is emphatic: “In my opinion he was the best player of the league.
“He played some wonderful games, he started playing every week and had a lot of minutes and no injuries which is very important for players like that also mentally.
“Don’t forget the Belgian weather and the pitches, it’s not the Premier League, so it can be difficult for creative players like him but he succeeded very well.
“He’s really a winger who takes on a full-back, sometimes he really embarrassed them.
“Liam Manning (Lommel SK Head Coach) said he’s very important as well on the counter attack, because you always see that when he has the ball, everything can happen.
“It’s a pity supporters could only see him for three games in the ground before COVID, but I’m sure they’ll remember him for a very long time.”
For Claes, one of Moreno’s most memorable displays came away from home against eventual champions, Union Saint-Gilloise.
Opponents would often double up on the precocious winger to stifle his talent but, as Claes argues in that standout performance, more often than not he found the solution.
He recalls: “Liam Manning always felt that every coach knew he could do something magical so they would put one or two players on him for the full 90 minutes.
“It was a very experienced team (Union SG) with very experienced players. They know the league, against them I saw his qualities.
“Three defenders picked up yellow cards by fouling him, he had too much talent.
“For me, it was a joy to see.”
Talent is one thing, but hard work and a desire to improve are essential to consistently perform across an entire season.
In the case of Moreno, his application on the training ground and beyond suggests that he is keen to maximise that potential.
“He also started to train with a personal coach via video chat, that was something new I saw,” Claes continues.
“He was the only player who did that so he was training not only with the club but at his house too. He really started to adapt.
“The nice thing about Lommel is that you really can focus on football, there’s no events with COVID so everything is closed, they really can focus, and he did that.
“I think he really made the click in his head for the next step, he’s ready for the next big step."