The two left-backs have both been linked with a move to Anfield this summer as Brendan Rodgers looks to strengthen his squad ahead of next season. Henry Jackson (@OnFootballTweet) assesses the qualities they would bring to the Liverpool side.
This week The Liverpool Echo reported how Spaniard Alberto Moreno is Brendan Rodgers’ “top target” in the position, but reported interest from a host of other top European clubs and a potential bidding war with them could mean Liverpool will look elsewhere to get better value for money. Rojo and Rodriguez are two options for such.
Rojo is a very solid defender, who is equally happy at left-back or centre-back. The former is his preferred role, however.
The 24-year-old will start at left-back for Argentina at this summer’s World Cup in Brazil- he has won 20 caps since his debut in 2011- and with Brendan Rodgers keen to add more steel to his defence next season, his tough style would be perfect.
At 6″1 tall, he has a physical presence often lacking in full-backs, and his imposing frame often gives him an immediate psychological edge over his opponent. He’s also very cultured on the ball.
The former Spartak Moscow star has been terrific for Sporting all season, ensuring his side have the second best defensive record in Portugal’s Primeira Liga. Just 20 league goals conceded is hugely impressive.
Barcelona are reportedly tracking his progress too, highlighting the calibre of player he is.
Rodriguez has enjoyed a superb season with Wolfsburg, enhancing his reputation as one of the most highly-rated left-backs around.
The 21-year-old has everything needed to become world-class in his position: pace, power, dribbling, a terrific final ball and good defensive work. The threat he poses going forward is particularly impressive, and his seven goals and assists in 2013/14 would be good statistics for a winger, let alone a full-back.
The 19-time capped Switzerland international is a player being watched closely by some of Europe’s top clubs, and if Liverpool could get in early on him it could prove to be a masterstroke.
Rodriguez is a player who is only going to get better over the next few years, and any slight weaknesses in his game- he can switch of defensively now and again- will disappear as he grows more and more experienced.
Are they a better option than Flanagan?
Jon Flanagan has enjoyed a terrific breakthrough season for the Reds, maturing by the game and earning himself a place on England’s stand-by list for the World Cup in the process.
The signing of a quality left-back though would allow Flanagan to either act as cover on both sides of defence, or establish himself as the first choice in his natural role on the right.
The table below shows the comparison between Flanagan, Rojo and Rodriguez this season, both in terms of attacking threat and defensive expertise.
[table id=58 /]
This shows that Rodriguez is far and away the most effective of the three in an attacking sense.
The Wolfsburg star does often take penalties however, which, like Steven Gerrard this season, can make statistics like this somewhat misleading. His assists can’t be argued with though, and his final ball is exceptional.
Defensively, meanwhile, Rojo comes out on top. He has been a mainstay of the Sporting defence all season and it’s clear that he would add a presence to the Reds’ defence lacking all season.
Both Flanagan and Rodriguez’s respective defences have leaked goals, and although it’s more a criticism of the whole defensive unit than one individual, both need to take a portion of the blame. It would be the one slight question mark against Rodgriguez.
Both Rojo and Rodriguez would be terrific acquisitions by Liverpool, with the Argentine offering consistency and versatility, and the Swiss star bringing great flair and attacking quality to the team.
It would be Rodriguez who just gets the nod, however, as his potential is greater than that of Rojo. In the eyes of many, the Wolfsburg man has the ability to become one of the world’s left-backs over the next decade, and if Rodgers managed to take him to Anfield it would be a great coup.
Who would you rather see join out of Rojo and Rodriguez? Is Flanagan good enough to be first-choice left-back next season? Let us know in the comments section below.
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