Marco Rojas is one of the most exciting talents to have ever graced the A-League, but the Victory star will soon have some company in Melbourne when City unleash Markel Susaeta.
This is already shaping up to be an entertaining second half to the season.
Not only have we got two games today – and Wellington Phoenix’s clash with the Newcastle Jets in the Kiwi capital is eminently watchable – but we should also be entertained by the return of Melbourne Victory’s prodigal son Marco Rojas for the back end of the campaign.
Rojas has been named in Victory’s squad to face Sydney FC in tonight’s blockbuster clash at AAMI Park, although he hasn’t played 90 minutes of football since November 11 last year.
But there’s also no denying that, on his day, Rojas is one of the most electrifying talents we’ve ever seen in the A-League.
He was also a handy talent for SønderjyskE in the Danish Superliga, although the much-travelled Kiwi star didn’t see much game time in the final few weeks of his spell, possibly because he’d already turned down a contract extension to return to the A-League.
He scored the winning goal for SønderjyskE against Randers FC on the opening day of this season, rifling home former Adelaide United winger Johan Absalonsen’s cutback to secure all three points.
His only other goal came in the pouring rain at Silkeborg when Rojas pounced on a misplaced pass before jinking inside and smashing a trademark left-foot strike into the bottom corner.
But after spells in Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany, there’s still a sense that for all his unbridled talent, Rojas didn’t quite reach the heights expected of him in Europe.
That’s okay. He had a dream to play football at the highest level, gave it a red-hot crack and now he’s back in the league where he first made his name.
It’s the opposite of Markel Susaeta’s career trajectory, but the Basque star could be just as exciting an addition after swapping J. League giants Gamba Osaka for Melbourne City.
Susaeta enjoyed a four-minute cameo off the bench against Newcastle last weekend, but the one-time Spanish international is better known for playing more than 500 games for Basque giants Athletic Bilbao.
The skilful winger was Bilbao’s long-time captain and played a total of 379 games in La Liga, but he left the club in a bit of a huff after turning down a disputed contract extension, claiming he was “hurt” by his inability to finish his career as a one-club man.
Susaeta evidently wasn’t keen on playing against Bilbao in La Liga – he’s originally from Eibar, whose tiny club have battled away in the top flight for a few years now – but after a largely ineffectual spell in Japan he may find the A-League more to his liking.
That’s because Melbourne City have employed a more free-flowing style of football this season under Erick Mombaerts, and also because Susaeta is versatile enough to play on either flank.
And we shouldn’t kid ourselves that signing players of his calibre isn’t somewhat of a coup, just because Susaeta never played in the English Premier League or spent years as a full international.
What the A-League needs over the second half of the season is an injection of the sort of excitement and attacking football that players like Rojas and Susaeta can offer.
Victory’s grudge match with Sydney FC tonight has already taken on a new dimension, even before another North Island-born Kiwi international in Kosta Barbarouses makes his long-awaited return to a former stomping ground.
Barbarouses will receive a hostile reception when he lines up for the Sky Blues in what is a proper football stadium, but it’s Rojas who the Victory fans will really come to see.
Just one question remains: why didn’t Wellington Phoenix try to sign him?