Where I live, a lot of people use rhyming slang. Since Maximillano Rodriguez signed for the Reds in 2010, I’ve frequently used “Maxi Rodriguez” when phoning a taxi. He’s a player I’ve always been fond of, my first memory of the Argentine coming in the 2006 World Cup, with that wonder goal against Mexico. Maybe that’s why I took to him – first impressions do count.
Starting at Newell’s Old Boys, and becoming an important part of their team over three years, he then forged an impressive career in Spain, with Espanyol(2002-2005) and Atlético Madrid(2005-2010), where he became a full international player and even captained the Rojiblancos from 2007 until his exit to Liverpool. Maxi played the majority of his La Liga career as a winger, and had a knack for being a goalscorer too. Rodriguez has also scored 12 goals in 41 appearances for his country. He was an important part of both sides, and had previous against the Reds, scoring in the November 2008 Champions League clash between the clubs at Anfield, knocking one into the Kop just before half-time.
Joining Liverpool last year, on a free transfer, Maxi has always been a fairly reliable if quiet player for us. He came to us with a reputation, a powerful and intelligent player who didn’t waste possession and could create chances and score goals, as well as being a competent player, with intelligence in his position, at the same time being extremely versatile, being able to all across midfield and up-front. However, under first Rafael Benitez, and then Roy Hodgson, Maxi regularly looked a player that cost nothing, efficient on the ball, but little of the goal scoring forward that had looked so impressive on the big stage previously – his first goal coming over three months after his arrival, against Burnley – was he to be another good player who just didn’t do the business at Anfield?
Flashes of quality under Hodgson was about as good as it had got for Rodriguez so far, a late winner against Bolton – and goals in 3-0 wins over West Ham United and Aston Villa -under Kenny Dalglish however, this has changed. Following the Kings return, Maxi took a while to establish himself in the squad, barely appearing in the New Year, but he has resurfaced as the season reaches its climax, and he has certainly given Liverpool fans something to think about next season.
A hat-trick on the 23rd of April against Birmingham City has begun a massive upsurge in form. In the absence of talisman Steven Gerrard, and niggling injuries here and there, one of my worries has been where the incision would come from outside of Luis Suarez, who has been fantastic in recent weeks too, but I don’t have to tell you that do I?
However, in recent weeks, the entire squad has looked capable of scoring and creating goals, and none more so than Maxi himself. A goal into Newcastle followed, and another hat-trick away at Fulham in the Reds last game, a 5-2 battering for the Cottagers, has taken him from squad player and potentially on his way out the door in the transfer window, to an important part of the first-team now. Maybe he just took some time to settle in England, but for me, his intelligent passing game is suited to the brand of football we have been dazzling with in recent weeks perfectly.
His movement, vision, passing and most of all his shooting has been fantastic in recent weeks. He seems to be absolutely flying with confidence, and has filled in on the wide areas swapping with Suarez excellently, allowing Kuyt to play in his best position. There is so much talk about Liverpool lacking quality in the wide areas, but for a good while now we have two of the best wide players in the league on our wings. He combines greatly with the players around him, and has definitely, for me at least, proved that he is more than worthy of staying here next season.
He’s finally becoming the player I described earlier, a consistent performer, a goal scorer, versatile and intelligent. He can keep possession well and makes some excellent runs, and he’s certainly a finisher. He is a player who can really make a difference for us for a while yet, Maxi Rodriguez is a very solid option to have in our squad.
If you look at some of our free transfers over recent years, Andrei Voronin, Philip Degen, Milan Jovanovic and Joe Cole on this season’s evidence, they haven’t exactly worked out. Maxi has, for the most part, fallen into one of these types of players in his time, but as the old cliché goes, “Form is temporary, Class is permanent”, and Maxi Rodriguez certainly has a bit of class about him.
Definitely a keeper in my eyes, because he certainly at the moment looks like he could leave Anfield with a reputation more akin to McAllister than Voronin. But, hopefully, he won’t be leaving for another while yet.