Player To Watch #31: Maxi Rodríguez

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Number 31: Maxi Rodríguez

Country: Argentina

Position: Winger/Attacking Midfielder

Club Team: Atlético Madrid

American-Based Professional Sport “Soulmate”: Thomas Jones, RB, New York Jets

There’s a natural tendency to think of strikers when you think of Argentine soccer. They’ve got the luxury of choosing between Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, and Sergio Aguero up top, and for some bonehead reason they’re even coached by legendary Argentine forward (and former World Cup winner/cocaine addict) Diego Maradona. But the actual engine that drives the Argentine attack when it’s running on all cylinders is in the midfield.

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Maxi Rodríguez is the type of attacking midfielder every team wants, and his heavy involvement in the offense consistently pays huge dividends. Much like New York Jets Running Back Thomas Jones, Maxi can do absolutely everything on the offensive side of the ball. Jones runs the ball with speed and power, runs great routes in the passing game, catches the ball exceptionally well, and is one of the best blocking tailbacks in the NFL. Similarly, Maxi Rodríguez is a precise passer with both the short and long ball, he’s a creative force in building an attack, and as Mexico learned when he rocketed the best goal of the 2006 World Cup past Oswaldo Sanchez, he can strike it. Neither Jones nor Rodríguez has ever lacked for pace (that means they run fast in soccer speak), and Maxi has a knack for scoring big-time game winning goals.

But just like TJ, when Maxi doesn’t get enough touches he’s not nearly as effective. Rodríguez and Jones share this trait with Yanks (and soon-to-be Everton?) star Landon Donovan. When players like these that are so integral to their team’s attack aren’t fed the ball early and often, they sometimes pull a disappearing act. The U.S. and the New York Jets both seem to have figured this out, and Argentine fans should be hoping that Maradona got the memo as well. Maxi’s teammates at Atlético sure get it; the 28 year old scored four goals in one Spanish Cup match last month (yeah it was against weak competition in UD Marabella, but four goals is four goals).

And whether you’re a fan of Argentina’s national team or not, there are plenty of reasons to root for Maxi Rodríguez. First off, he’s a player that is massively entertaining to watch when he’s on his game, and is prone to moments of brilliance as your favorite Brit commentator might put it. Who doesn’t want to see Maxi clown three Greek defenders before firing home a cannon shot from thirty yards out?

Second, he plays for Atlético Madrid, cross town rivals of Real Madrid. They’re already the good guys by virtue of the fact that their rival is pure evil… and they’ve got sweet uniforms.

Third, the nickname! No not Maxi (which is already cool enough to be the name of a badass video game character, but La Fiera! English translations of the term “fiera” yield results like “wild beast”, “demon”, and “savage.” Savage!

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And lastly, my personal best reason to root for Maxi Rodríguez. After being eliminated from the ’06 World Cup by Germany, Maxi punched noted German winger and punk/jackleg-at-large Bastian Schweinsteiger right in the back. Rodríguez was rightly hit with a FIFA suspension for the incident, but I imagine it was well worth it.

Filed Under: 32 players to watchDecember 2009

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