Rojas's road forward
Marco Rojas is hot property right now, and the biggest question is will he stay at the Victory?
As so often happens with promising young talent in the A-League, a string of good performances triggers conversation about a move abroad.
No sooner had Marco Rojas rediscovered his lost mojo down the flanks for Melbourne Victory than speculation regarding a possible January trial in Europe flew into overdrive, generating as much rumour as an Ernie Merrick return to the A-League.
And with the New Zealand international out of contract at season-s end and yet to apply pen to paper on a new deal to stay at the A-League-s biggest club, it-s the question everyone is keen to know: will Rojas still be a Victory player at the end of January, let alone at season-s end?
The intense interest makes for a startling turnaround for a player who, for large parts of last season, was a ghost of his former self. In many respects, he exemplified Melbourne Victory-s season — moments of promise, yet largely devoid of confidence, understanding and a purpose. “It hasn't been the best of seasons for me," Rojas declared earlier this year.
Now everyone seems to want a piece of Marco Rojas. Five goals in eight games has the 21-year-old in career-best form, taking out a mortgage on every flank in the competition and making his opponent pay at every chance, thanks to a system that is tailor-made for a player of his quality.
"Our system is designed to give somebody like Marco… the freedom to play,” Victory coach, Ange Postecoglou, said after his side-s 1-0 win against Perth Glory on Friday night, in which Rojas topped a stellar performance with a curling gem over Glory ‘keeper Danny Vukovic. “But to get that license to play, you've got to do all the other things. He was good, he scored a cracking goal and he's been good all year.”
In reality, a move to a European club in January seems unlikely. During the mid-season transfer window, clubs in Europe are either battling to avoid relegation or trying to qualify for the UEFA Champions League or Europa Cup, therefore will look to sign players with experience — or players they know well. History suggests young, unproven starlets playing on our side of the globe do not fit into this category.
It-s also doubtful Victory would sanction a mid-season trial for its hottest talent.
In the event that there is a January offer, it has been suggested that Victory could demand a fee of anywhere between $500,000 to $1million for Rojas-s release, although considering he is out of contract at season-s end, it would be fanciful to expect a club to pay anywhere near the $1million mark.
For Victory, there will be hefty financial implications should the club fail to tie Rojas down to a long-term deal soon. As one source suggested, an interested party would be keen to exploit Rojas-s potential availability as a free agent by signing the player to a pre-contract and wait until July 1 and sign him for free.
So how do you convince a player, who no doubt will be fielding offers from abroad, that the best thing for his development is to stay at Victory for a little while longer? Get the man responsible for kicking Rojas out of his second year blues to have a word to him, not for the sake of the club, but for the benefit of the individual.
Under Postecoglou, Rojas is enjoying a new lease of life, and although he-s four points ahead of Alessandro Del Piero at the top of the Alex Tobin Award chart, he-d be aware his game (passing and crossing, for example) requires further development and refinement. Rojas could also do well to pick up the phone and give fellow All White Kostas Barbarouses a call, whose game matured under Postecoglou-s watchful eye and is a much better player for it.
Rojas-s European dream won-t end if he extends his stay at Victory. But his development might if he heads abroad prematurely like many others before him.