Whilst Girona have been the breakout stars of the 2023/24 La Liga season, sitting level on 45 points with league leaders Real Madrid, Las Palmas certainly aren’t far behind. After returning to the top-flight for the first time since 2017/18, Garcia Pimienta’s side sit ninth in the table, six points away from the final European spot and 12 points above the relegation zone, and they boast the second-best defense in Spain (15 goals conceded) after Real Madrid (11).
One player who has been a vital cog in Las Palmas’ impressive start is Alberto Moleiro Gonzalez. Born in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on September 30, 2003, Moleiro joined UD Las Palmas’ academy in 2018 from CD Sobradillo, working his way up the ranks before making his first-team debut on August 15, 2021, replacing Maikel Mesa in a 1-1 draw against Real Valladolid — a few weeks later, he would net the equalizer in a 1-1 draw against UD Ibiza in the Segunda.
Bit by bit, Moleiro has made a name for himself in the Canary Islands and emerged as yet another fine product of Las Palmas’ academy alongside Pedri (Barcelona), Vitolo (Atletico Madrid) and teammate Saul Coco. A right-footed attacking midfielder, Moleiro is cementing himself as one of the first names on the team sheet, setting up Kirian Rodriguez’s opener in a 2-1 win against Atletico Madrid before grabbing his first La Liga goal in the following match on November 11, opening the scoring in a 1-1 draw at Osasuna.
Having scored in the previous round, a 3-0 win against Manacor, Moleiro set up Munir El Haddadi’s 124th-minute winner as Las Palmas edged Tudelano 2-1, avoiding penalties and advancing to the Round of 32 in the Copa del Rey. He would find Rodriguez for the opening goal in a 1-0 victory at Alaves, whilst his most recent match would see him register one key pass, create one big chance, win three of five ground duels and complete two of three dribbles, before coming off at halftime in a 1-1 draw to Cadiz.
After succumbing to a shoulder sprain, Moleiro looks set to miss the next few weeks for Las Palmas, who ended the year by suffering a 1-0 defeat to Athletic Club courtesy of Unai Gomez’s last-second goal. Still, Moleiro has proven to be one of the breakout stars of the La Liga season alongside the likes of Jude Bellingham, Savio, Lamine Yamal, and Samuel Lino. Today, we’re taking a look at the data behind Moleiro’s impressive form and explaining just what makes him such a special talent.
Standing at 169 cm, Moleiro is considerably short for an attacking midfielder, but he has emerged as a giant on the pitch for Las Palmas this season. Boasting world-class technique and audacious flair, Moleiro looks to push the ball forward and attack the opponent’s penalty area every time he receives possession, improvising and breaking the lines with his dribbling and passing and constantly keeping defenders on his toes. Capable of cutting inside and shifting towards the box to look for passing options, he has the technical ability to move out of pockets and find space for himself before creating attacking chances.
Moleiro has had all of his shots around the edge of the 18-yard box, and of the 9 shots that he has attempted so far, the Spaniard has found the back of the net on just one occasion, an 11.1% conversion rate. Moleiro is capable of shooting with either foot and picking the right moment to test the goalkeeper, but in order to become a genuine goal threat, he needs to improve his shooting technique. Oftentimes, he delays the shot far too long, causing him to mistime the effort or put too much power on the shot, whilst also allowing defenders more time to recover and close him down.
Moleiro has incredible strength and pace, allowing him to challenge defenders in 1v1 situations and progress the ball into the final third. A major counter-attacking threat, he averages 1.56 carries into the penalty area, showcasing his ability to wriggle his way out of tiny pockets whilst being pressed and giving himself more time and space to make decisions on the ball.
Despite being right-footed, he’s capable of playing on either wing with ample intensity, giving him an edge over defenders in tight spaces. His ability to draw out defenders by cutting within the press allows more space for his teammates to build up possession for the goal, but his off-the-ball positioning is major concern. Oftentimes, he fails to make himself available for a pass and allows his nearby teammate to be overrun by the press.
The 20-year-old is averaging 2.44 crosses per 90, showcasing his calm and composure before delivering the ball into the box. He has the ability to progress the ball with either foot and never hesitates to make a run towards either flank depending on what the situation requires. Capable of leaving his marker and finding space, Moleiro is a lethal crosser who is also capable of holding onto the ball amid pressure, twisting and turning at ease and utilizing his low center of gravity to beat the press.
Moleiro is excellent at making line-breaking passes into the final third, boasting the right technique to make passes in behind the defense and finding attackers in space. However, he does need to improve in terms of the weight of pass as well as the timing of his through balls if he is to make the step up and become a full-fledged Spanish international — if he can do so, a maiden appearance for La Roja may not be a pipe dream for the youngster.
To begin, we’re going to take a look at a scatter plot that compares his Progressive Carries and Progressive Passes Received.
Moleiro is the complete modern-day attacking midfielder, constantly looking to take on opponents and keep the ball moving up front. He positions himself in a way to get the ball and make swift turns with his first touch, creating enough space for him to move the ball into the final third.
He exhibits great potential in his movement and build-up but still lacks in the awareness of his positioning. Moleiro is constantly changing his positioning, making it hard for his teammates to spot him for the final pass and forcing his teammates to shift into different roles, thus allowing the defending team to close and press. This often leads to Las Palmas conceding quick counter-attacks and getting exploited off the ball.
Moleiro shows his awareness in scanning the pitch before receiving the ball to make quick turns, and his impressive first touch allows him to create space and time for himself before taking on players with ease and advancing through the middle third of the pitch. The Spaniard is a physically imposing player who has immense technique to hold the ball under pressure and glide past defenders using both his feet. With a 65% take-on success rate, his composure and speed allows him to ride the pressure and evade challenges, and he has the footballing IQ to dribble up the pitch before releasing the ball into a dangerous area.
The 20-year old still has to work on his first touch under heavy pressure from the defenders as he always looks to dribble past them when there are many other different ways to rotate the ball and make himself free to create an attack. He has to work in holding the second balls that come his way to prevent counter attacks — overall, he needs to improve in retaining the ball if he is to make the step up to a bigger side, although it should be noted that Las Palmas are averaging 59.0% possession, second only to Barcelona with 65.2%.
Moving onto his defensive skills, we’re going to take a look at how Moleiro fares in terms of Aerial Duels won and Tackles won.
Moleiro is the type of player that works hard in the attacking phase but fails to show the same commitment in his defensive duties. Having been booked six times in two seasons in Spain’s second tier, he doesn’t take too many dangerous risks when going in for challenges but rather makes calculated gambles. His height is a bit of a concern, causing him to lose out on many aerial duels, but he is nevertheless quick and has the physical strength to win the ball back and compensate for his struggles in the air.
Whilst he received six yellow cards during his time in the Segunda, he is yet to receive a yellow card in the top-flight. With 1.56 fouls committed per 90 this season, Moleiro is a sensible player who will make tactical fouls when needed, but he certainly won’t take risks when winning the ball back. Moreover, his physicality allows him to make challenges and stop the opponent from progressing the ball into dangerous areas. With ample strength and agility, Moleiro is able to recover the ball whilst not conceding silly fouls and getting himself booked.
Capable of interpreting space with ease and playing through the middle or the flanks, Alberto Moleiro Gonzalez is a calm and composed player in possession who controls the tempo of attack and finds his teammates in the final third with regularity. However, he still has plenty of room for improvement including his finishing, his positioning out of possession, and his ability to win the second ball. In order to become a more complete player, he must work on his defensive contributions as he often fails to press his man with intensity and support his team to win the ball back.
At 20 years of age, the future is bright for not only Moleiro, but Las Palmas as well. The Canary Islands native is thriving for his boyhood club, showing similarities to Pedri in terms of his ability to shimmy past opponents, evade pressure and whip in a dangerous cross into the box. Whilst his contract is set to expire in 2026, if he can continue to add new layers to his game and become an asset in the defensive side of the game, it’ll only be a matter of time before he follows in the footsteps of Josep Martinez (Leipzig), Roque Mesa (Swansea) and Pedri (Barcelona) and becomes the latest player to earn a big move away from Pio Pio.
By: Sive Vishwa / @sive_vishwa
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Quality Sport Images – Getty Images