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Last season Racing Santander centre- forward Salva topped Spain’s scoring charts ahead of more fancied names like Raul and Rivaldo. Like Salva last year, Alaves striker Javi Moreno began the new campaign the wrong side of 25 and with no top-flight pedigree to speak of. And like the former Racing striker, all of a sudden he can’t stop scoring.

In 1990, the 15-year-old Moreno swapped his family home on the outskirts of Valencia for a bunk-bed at Barcelona’s Camp Nou academy. He progressed as far as Bar_a B but at the end of the 1995-96 campaign was invited to try his luck elsewhere.

“My career dipped dramatically after leaving Barcelona,” admits Moreno. “I didn’t score in 15 games at Cordoba and then suffered a bad knee injury. I lost my motivation and seriously considered retiring. But my family persuaded me to give it another shot at Yeclano.”

Like Cordoba, Yeclano were a Second Division B outfit in Spain’s deep south. Luckily, Moreno rediscovered his scoring touch and after just 16 games Alaves poached him for a paltry œ12,000.

Moreno played 10 games for Alaves at the back end of 1997-98 as his new club sealed promotion. The Basque outfit liked what they saw, but decided to send the still raw striker back to the Second Division on loan; his 18 goals in 1998-99 were instrumental in Numancia’s first promotion to the top flight.

Back at Alaves for the next season, Moreno’s shot at the big time began in disheartening fashion. “I couldn’t have hit the target if you’d put rugby posts in front of me,” the forward recalls. “Then (coach) Mane dropped me and I scored coming off the bench at Espanyol. That was the turning point for me.”

Last term Moreno scored seven goals as back-up to veteran duo Salinas and Kodro. This year he scored 16 in Alaves’ first 20 League games. Given Moreno’s state of grace, it would be a major surprise if Jose Camacho doesn’t pick the two-footed bundle of energy for Spain’s forthcoming friendlies against England and France.

Moreno’s days at Alaves are numbered. His get-out clause is œ5.5million, a derisory figure for a proven goalscorer and one that would represent a massive profit for Alaves.

West Ham and Aston Villa would happily triple Moreno’s current œ120,000 annual salary, but the 26-year-old’s most likely destination is a dream move back home to Valencia.

FACT FILE
Club Alaves
Country Spain
Born September 10, 1974, Silla (Valencia)
Previous clubs Barcelona B, Cordoba, Yeclano, Numancia
Honours Spanish Second Division 1998 (Alaves)
International debut February 2001 v England (0-3)

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