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Anyone for a Kiwi Lionel Messi?

Tuesday 27th June 2017
Over the Confederations Cup coverage, especially in the games involving New Zealand, you may have heard the moniker “Kiwi Lionel Messi”. But who is this New Zealander likened to one of the world's best players?

Born, Marco Rodrigo Rojas, the creative player is now more commonly referred to as the Kiwi Messi, chiefly by the media surrounding his career. He is currently plying his trade at the A-League club, Melbourne Victory. You know, the other club in Melbourne which isn't owned by Manchester City.

He's been given this nickname for his ability and his nationality. Although he does have South American heritage, as his father was born and grew up in Chile, not Argentina despite his comparison hailing from Rosario.

Rojas started his career in the semi-professional leagues of NZ with Waikato FC and Hamilton Wanderers, the same clubs which Chris Wood played at before moved to Europe. Rojas, however, stayed on his side of the equator longer than Wood, opting to play with New Zealand's only professional side: Wellington Phoenix. The strange anomaly being here that Wellington doesn't play in their own league, as there is no competition at their level for them to play. Instead, they compete in the Australian A-League. Making them interestingly one of the few teams to play in another confederation competition, despite being based in another. New Zealand still being part of the OFC confederation, whether as Australia moved to the Asian equivalent.

Although it wasn't until his move to Australia itself, that he learnt the alias we now refer to him by. The earliest records of its usage date back to 2012, where the man from Hamilton was in tremendous form for Melbourne Victory, his first tenure with the club. So much so that European clubs were starting to take an interest in him. Australian media quickly branded the youngster as the Kiwi Messi and the name stuck.
The move to Europe eventually happened, two seasons with the Victory was enough for VfB Stuttgart to offer a lucrative contract for his services in their 2013/14 Bundesliga campaign. Yet his time with Die Roten wasn't well… much time at all. In his first season, he played just 68 minutes, in their reserve team. After which he went on an extensive loan run where he spent time with Greuther Fürth (2.Bundesliga) and FC Thun in the Swiss Super League. The latter with which he slightly more success with. That said his collective spells in this part of Europe wasn't particularly fruitful, and come to the end of his second season with Thun, his parent club – Stuttgart agreed to a mutual termination Rojas' contract.

That parting of ways allowed to return to Melbourne and re-join the Victory for the 16/17 season. His move back to the A-League proved to be very successful, playing 25 games and scoring 12 times throughout those games; and also topped the assist table – setting up his colleagues goals on 11 occasions.

He's currently with New Zealand in their Confederations Cup, but it all went sour after two games. Consecutive losses to Russia and Mexico meant they could progress past the group stage, regardless of the result against Portugal. They did, however, lose that game as well.

Given that the All Whites FIFA ranking is 95th, the side can hold some pride that they've at least been spirited against the much classier opposition. They were very competitive against Mexico and even held the lead going into the half-time interval. The team did, however, succumb to defeat, key individuals such as the Kiwi Lionel Messi performed throughout.
One of the goals he's scored with the Victory.

Watching him play the aforementioned game against Mexico was a joy to behold, he confidently made passes with time he made for himself. He looked at ease on the ball and may have even done is a team a disservice by essentially playing over their standard, a rare oddity.

His statistics don't lie and there could be genuine interest for his services again. One of the major problems is the player and his mental welfare around the topic of Europe. He's done it before and potentially not had the best time, should he leave Australia again it certainly couldn't be a Bundesliga club.

In theory, there's a whole host of clubs that would benefit from his services, a real interesting concept would see him pair up with an international colleague, Chris Wood, at Leeds United. (That's assuming Chris is still there of course). The Kiwi could certainly add a depth to the midfield which the West Yorkshire club could use, bring the same ideas from his national side to the football league.

He may even find a good home in the new attacking styles of Serie A, somewhere like Sassuolo, which has had a few players leave or just their loans expire. It'd be easy to see him slotting in the similar position which Federico Ricci did last season with relative ease.

Should those be of little interest to Rojas then he could comfortably fit in most Dutch and Belgian sides, or even honour his South American heritage and play for a team in the Chilean Primera División.

Either way, the Kiwi Lionel Messi probably deserves another chance to show his exploits and show us why he's compared to one of the best players in the world.

Given his form and statistics, would you want Marco Rojas in your team?
Warren Smith

A British and J.League soccer enthusiast, now local to Yokohama, Japan. A keen Arsenal supporter. Has been known to play the game every once in awhile, once likened to Xherdan Shaqiri. 


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