Poor Maxi Rodriguez. From Atletico’s fire to Liverpool’s frying pan.
I can’t decide whether I’m happy or skeptical, optimistic or pessimistic over the deal. Little has a silver lining after yesterday’s calamity, but I felt similarly before the match. And yesterday's result will only intensify the pressure on Rodriguez, which obviously isn’t fair.
First and foremost, Maxi Rodriguez is a classy player that’s impressed me the few times I’ve seen him. He’s a clever, skillful attacker with a cannon of a shot, and Liverpool could certainly do with more creativity, especially from the flanks. He scored the best World Cup goal I’ve had the fortune of seeing, and a peach of a strike at Anfield last season. And he needs to prove his worth to the national team before this summer’s tournament, which is a massive incentive.
That he’s signed for three and a half years – instead of the 18 months first suggested – also demonstrates Benitez has faith in his adaptation. Or it could say that Liverpool were hamstrung to the player’s (read: agent’s) demands.
It’s cliché (and it certainly wasn’t true for the last player Liverpool signed from Atletico), but I just can’t get the memory of Morientes out of my head. I worry about how Rodriguez will adapt to English football and where he’ll fit into the team. While Benitez unsurprisingly said he can play anywhere along the line of three, he’s been on the right every time I’ve seen him. And while Kuyt’s recent form has revived the debate over his merits on that flank, he’ll still be hard to dislodge from Benitez’s 4-2-3-1. But who knows if Liverpool will continue with that formation; it certainly hasn’t done wonders of late.
Having played with Mascherano, Insua, and Torres should also be a massive benefit. Maxi’s relationship with Masch was a key factor in coming to Anfield, and he played well with Torres at Atletico before his knee injury and Torres’ transfer. He’s yet another player that’s captained a club or country side – Gerrard, Torres, Mascherano, Benayoun, Lucas, Kuyt, and now Rodriguez (I reckon Carra counts as a leader too).
But he’s struggled to recreate his best form for almost three years now, since a serious knee injury in ’06-07. He still played nearly 40 games in each of his last two seasons, but I wonder how much gas is left in the tank. Atletico’s problems assuredly haven’t helped his recovery either, but that alone makes me question how he’ll adapt.
That and Liverpool’s form – sadly parallel to Atletico’s at times this season – won’t ease any transition. We’ve seen the pressure built by expectations in Aquilani’s performances after finally getting over his injury. Any player finds it hard to settle into a struggling side.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still thrilled Liverpool signed someone, and on paper, Rodriguez checks a lot of boxes. The cost was also right, which is a rarity in January. And to be honest, if his clearance goes through in time and he’s fit, I hope he’s thrown in the deep end against Stoke. Can’t do much worse. But this season should have demonstrated that there's little chance of panaceas.