Whether they are 30 yard screamers or simple tap-ins a few inches from the goal-line, a penalty kick or a well worked team effort, a curling free-kick or an audacious lob from the half-way line.
They win you matches and put a smile on supporters’ faces.
Liverpool have struggled to score on a regular basis this season– by not finishing teams off.
While there are plenty of reasons as to why this is the case, it is the well-documented fact that the Reds are short on options up front, especially since the foot injury to Fabio Borini who is sidelined until the end of January 2013.
It is a fact that the manager is well aware of and waiting anxiously to address in the up- coming transfer window. Until then, however, the front-line houses two teenagers in Adam Morgan and Samed Yesil who have played a few cup games. Technically gifted they may be, and prospective stars of the future too, but surely they lack some valuable experience.
The transfer D–day debacle of August has been well covered so I don’t need to venture back there, but a closer look at the first few weeks of Rodgers’ reign gave us a fascinating insight into the current predicament that faces Liverpool Football Club.
Even before Brendan Rogers had been appointed, it was apparent that Dirk Kuyt, one who would have been ideally suited the new methodology, would leave and ultimately did so for Fenerbahce in Turkey. Craig Bellamy, returning from Olympic duty with Wales, followed Kuyt out of the club back to Cardiff City citing personal reasons (which is understandable). One cannot help but wonder what their presence would have brought to the current Liverpool squad.
In between the departure of Bellamy and Kuyt however, Rodgers was dealt another blow.
On 13th July, 2012 a third player with enough quality to belong to a Liverpool front three called it a day. A player equally as versatile as the names mentioned above, if not more, and one that Liverpool fans all over have started crying out for, albeit a six-year younger version.
31-year old Argentine winger Maximiliano Ruben Rodriguez left LFC that day for Newell’s Old Boys, heading back home to the club where he started his career. In losing Maxi, Craig and Dirk, LFC lost at least 25% of their goals from midfield areas, something which needs to be addressed with the current midfielders.
It was a move well received in Argentina; their former child prodigy was returning, but equally it was disheartening in Liverpool. After all, Maxi would never again run down the wing for us Reds.
In retrospect, it was a gesture of loyalty to a club that had given him the opportunity to make a mark at a professional level; a sign of respect to those who had helped nurture him into the fine footballer that he is today. And by choosing to play his remaining football years at Newell’s Old Boys, Maxi not only displayed great character but also an enthusiasm to give back to the institute that believed in him when he was only a youngster.
Having come through the youth set up at Newell’s Old Boys in the Argentine First Division, he broke in to the first team at 18 realising the dream to wear the red and black of ‘The Lepers’, the young Maxi began to display an eye for goal from the very beginning. He scored 20 in 59 league matches in three full seasons, before being loaned out to Real Oviedo for 6 months in the Spanish second division.
Meanwhile, he starred for Argentina in the 2001 World Youth Championship, scoring four goals including one in the 3-0 victory over Ghana in the final.
Nicknamed La Fiera (the beast), his early displays were enough to convince Spanish side RCD Espanyol, who were quick to snap up the rising star for €6 million and Maxi made the permanent move away from home for the 2002/03 season. His reputation as a talented footballer continued to show in Catalonia where he scored 29 goals over the course of three seasons, including the club’s 2000th Spanish league goal.
The goal was voted as the best of the tournament in an unofficial poll conducted by FIFA; Maxi had arrived.
His second season with Atlético saw him suffer a serious anterior cruciate ligament knee injury which limited him to just 10 league appearances. However, he was back to his best the following term and played for the Madrid side for another two and a half years. During this time, Maxi was named captain; taking over from Liverpool bound Fernando Torres and where he was to face his future club in the Champions League when Liverpool and Atlético were drawn together in Group D along with Marseille and PSV.
In November 2008 the Kop got their first glimpse of the player, unaware that they would go on to dedicate a song to him in the future. By now everyone knew that he could score but it was his ability to be in the right place at the right time that set him apart. Maxi continued to impress and opened the scoring in the game where Antonio Lopez picked the ball up from the right wing. He cut inside and played a short pass to Maxi, who pushed the ball past a defender with his first touch and rifled an unstoppable diagonal drive across the face of goal and inside the far post with his second. The game ended in a 1-1 draw, thanks to a late—and disputed—Steven Gerrard penalty.
Within a year’s time, Maxi was on the move again, to the club he thought to be ‘one of the greatest institutions in world football’.
Being an established goal scorer for club and country over the years, combined with his versatility to play on either flank or operate as an attacking midfielder, made him a great acquisition by Rafa Benitez—especially considering he was signed for free.
Rafa Benitez said this of Maxi when he finally put pen to paper on his contract “We were looking for players with character and a good mentality,” “He has played for Argentina and Atlético Madrid and is a player with personality.
“He can play in three positions – on the right, left or as a second striker – and is someone with a very positive mentality, which is what we are looking for. He is comfortable on the ball, can pass and keep possession. He is good at getting into the box and scoring goals and a good finisher. Every year he gets five to 15 goals from the right side of midfield.”
Maxi had just turned 29 before arriving in Merseyside in January 2010 and although technically past his peak, he didn’t take long to prove his worth. In fact, over time, he turned out to be quite a bit more than a ‘worthwhile signing’.
He made his debut for the club as a second-half substitute in a Premier League match against Stoke City, his first full start coming a week and a half later, away to Wolverhampton Wanderers (0-0 draw).
The following season, under the disastrous reign of Roy Hodgson, Maxi was rarely used. Something of a surprise to me, considering Hodgson relied heavily on proven older players – for instance Poulson and Konchesky
Maxi was back in the reckoning once Kenny Dalglish returned to the helm, and that was when he really started to flourish.
A flurry of seven goals in three games followed, including a 86 minute winner against Bolton at the Reebok and two hat-tricks against Birmingham City (5-0) and Fulham (5-2) in the latter he netted twice in the opening 7 minutes the first being after 32 seconds and completed his exhibition with a 25 yard strike.
He made his 50th appearance in a Red shirt against Newcastle United scoring the opening goal in a 3-0 win.
His ability to arrive in the nick of time from midfield to finish off a well-worked attack was perfectly showcased. Wouldn’t he have been a perfect addition, or retention, for the current squad?
Having served Dalglish well towards the end of the previous season, surely Maxi would have been considered to be a sure starter in 2011/12?
Yet this was not to be and he played just over 40% of the matches for Liverpool last season, a figure which sounds dismally low when bearing in mind the quality of the player in question and just how regularly the Reds racked up positive results during the season.
The lack of game time could have had an adverse effect on the player, but such was his dependability, consistency and value at this stage of his career that it didn’t. When called upon, Maxi proved again that he hadn’t lost his knack of scoring goals, netting 6 times in 17 starts.
On 24th August, he was given his first start of the season in a League Cup tie against Exeter City, and netted the second in an eventual 3–1 away success.
Rodríguez scored against Chelsea following a build-up with teammate Craig Bellamy, with Liverpool winning it 2–1 at Stamford Bridge. Nine days later, against the same opponent, in the same venue and again with the decisive pass being made by the Welshman, he found the net in a 2–0 League Cup triumph, which helped us on the way to winning the Carling Cup at Wembley.
On 26 December 2011, Rodríguez scored just his second league goal of the season in a 1–1 draw at Anfield against Blackburn Rovers. He netted his last two against the same adversary, on 10 April 2012 (3–2 away win).
At the end of 2011/12, no doubt due to lack of game time, Maxi decided to call it quits and returned to his homeland to reunite with Newell’s Old Boys, where he has started eight games with a goal to show to date.
His departure left Liverpool fans regretting that they missed out on the prospect of him playing in a Brendan Rodgers XI. Just how smoothly he would have fit in is something we’ll speculate on, but never get to know.
In his 73 appearances, he scored 17 goals for Liverpool.
Thanks Maxi, the pleasure was all ours to call you one of us, only it was too short-lived.
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