Rosario, Santa Fe is the third largest city within Argentina. Located 187 miles northwest of Buenos Aires, Exporters of wheat, flour, hay, linseed, corn, sugar and wool. It’s unclear whether its imports include ITV Yorkshire set dramas of the 60’s gender. Maximiliano Rubén Rodríguez is probably a little more familiar with the tv show “Heartbeat” since arriving on Merseyside, if he’s not then it’s likely that he will be soon. The theme tune has been amended by the Kop faithful to show their appreciation of the winger.
Maxi learnt his football at Newell’s Old Boys, this youth set up brought us Gabriel Batistuta, Jorge Valdano, Gabriel Heinze and Mauricio Pocchettino. A very young Lionel Messi also played in the club’s academy, but left for Europe to seek treatment for his growth hormone deficiency. After 3 years in the first team Maxi moved to Spain where he played the majority of his career. A loan spell of six months at Real Oviedo was followed by a move to Espanyol. A permanent fixture at Estadi Olímpic Lluís Company, despite playing under five managers in his 3 seasons there including current Deportivo de La Coruña coach Miguel Ángel Lotina. This showed an adaptability, a willingness to change tactics and training methods. A team player that would follow the managers wish to the letter, whether he agreed with it or not. This brought him to the attention of his national side where he scored on his debut against Japan. His final season of 2004-05 was his best for scoring in Spain, 15 goals in 37 appearances at a rate of a 198 minutes per goal.
Earning a €5 million transfer to Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2005. Once again he played under five different managers, that year he continued his decent scoring record. The highlight for him was a left-footed volley for Argentina in the last 16 of the World Cup against Mexico. It was later voted in an un-official FIFA poll as goal of the tournament. The next game was probably his lowest point in his career to date as after the team had lost he punched German player Bastian Schweinsteiger in the back receiving a two match ban. In the following season he suffered from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, having netted 6 goals in 10 appearances. However when he did return to first team action he continued to score goals but not at the rate per minute he once was. The next 3 seasons saw rates of 357,406 and 378 minutes per goals within La Liga. With the sale of Fernando Torres to Liverpool in 2007, Maxi was made club captain, another feather to his cap. A quite person by nature but receives respect from his peers for his professionalism. A more comprehensive look at his time at Atletico can be found here. His overall time in Spain saw him net 58 goals in 232 games, 0.25 goals per game (gpg). A 1 in 4 game ratio shows he know’s where the goal is, whether it be right or left foot, header or back heel, long or short-range.
La Fiera then followed El Nino to Anfield in January 2010 a Rafael Benítez signing. The club at the time was heavily in debt, struggling with injuries and struggling to make the top 4 in the league (which they had grown accustomed to). The knives were out for Benítez within the English press and there was very little money to put things right, a sell before you buy policy was in operation. Few players of International pedigree would consider joining a club so clearly in trouble. Maxi was brought in on a two-year contract, a player that could score goals and work for the team with no complaints (have you ever heard him complain ?). ”Maxi knows Javier (Mascherano) and Fernando (Torres) and the big positive
from that point was they have a very good opinion of him. He is a player who knows about the game” said Rafa at the time.
Adapting to a new team, language, country and style of football, will vary from player to player. A club that is in disarray from top to bottom will surely increase the bedding in period. His form whilst nothing spectacular was consistent, an understanding with Torres being the key as he assisted the striker with a couple of goals. He got off the score sheet himself in a 4-0 win over Burnley. Last summer as Rafa left rumours circulated over the sale of Maxi. A return to Espanyol seemed the favourite as critics including Paul Merson and Jamie Rednapp, were quick to pass judgement over the little mans short stay in the Premier League. Depending on the source Rodríguez was either brought for €1.5 million or was a free transfer, either way for a club that was fighting to keep its Champions League status it wasn’t a massive investment. Attacking players are naturally more expensive in general (Although there are exceptions). Having just turned 29 he was signed for the circumstance that the club were in, not long-term but with the ability and experience to come in and do a job. The winter market in England that year was certainly slow, the only other transfer of a winger/playmaker involving that of a top 6 club was Manchester City’s signing of Adam Johnson for £7 million which was still a bargain for a player of his age and talent.
In the last three games Maxi has scored 7 goals including two hat-tricks. 7 goals in 9 starts under Kenny Dalglish, 3 goals in 14 starts with Roy Hodgson as manager. In fairness to Hodgson, his scoring record was not that dissimilar to his achievements at previous clubs. His form at the moment is obviously something that should be commended given that he was written off as a flop signing. More consistency is still required so that he scores goals in more individual games rather than all at once but being ruthless is also an important quality, strike while the irons hot. His goals have come against Burnley, Bolton, West Ham, Aston Villa, Birmingham, Newcastle and Fulham, all of which are ‘bottom half’ of the table teams. This can be viewed as both a positive as well as a negative, its important to score against the weaker sides that sit deep and defend resolutely. The fact that he hasn’t scored against ‘top half’ shouldn’t be too much of a concern after all he scored against Barcelona and Sevilla whilst in Spain.
An intelligent player between the lines, a good first touch, clever passing and movement make Maxi an important squad player now at Liverpool. Having played the majority of his time on the left in England he can also operate the same position on the right or even behind the frontman. Whilst not blessed with blistering pace, he makes up for it with a work rate and positioning that enables him to get the best out of his abilities. The tactics of Kenny Dalglish are definitely playing their part in the players recovery. A key to Dalglish’s Liverpool tactically so far having being the interchanging positions of the front and midfield players, helping fluidity and creating problems for opponents who are unsure who to pick up. He’s scoring record this season as a whole being at 196 mpg with 2 games remaining, a figure which beats the player of 23-25 years old (possibly he’s prime years for scoring). Having seen his friends Mascherano and Torres leave Liverpool in the last year, it would have been easy for Maxi to look for an escape route but if there’s one thing that has been consistent throughout his career and that’s being adaptable. His link up play with Luis Suárez has been excellent, being in the right place at the right time assisting his finishing. For a transfer fee of £1.5 mill/free he is proving the critics wrong.
In the original Heartbeat show actor Nick Berry sung the theme tune a cover of Buddy Holly. For the change in fortune of Maxi Rodríguez he could easily borrow another of the London actor’s songs ‘Every Loser Wins’.