It was never really in doubt that Marco Rojas would head to Europe, where he goes is still undecided, but Victory fans should be thankful they saw the best of him.
Ever since the opening rounds of the season where he had bagged four goals in as many games, speculation has been rife regarding the playing future of Marco Rojas.
Yesterday, with Melbourne Victory-s season drawn to a close after its 1-0 semi-final loss to Central Coast Mariners a few days earlier, a concise opening sentence from the club-s press release confirmed what Melbourne Victory fans had long feared, suspected and grown to accept: “Marco Rojas will leave the club at the end of the month, after deciding to make the move to Europe.”
A cloak of mystery still surrounds his European destination with a host of clubs – Werder Bremen, VfB Stuttgart and Liverpool among them, vying for his signature, although reports suggest the All White could feature in the All Green strip of German Bundesliga side VfL Wolfsburg next season.
In any case, the move to Europe signals a remarkable turnaround in fortune for the talented 21-year-old, who earlier this week became the first player since Mark Viduka during the 1993/94 NSL season to win the Under-21 Player of the Year and Johnny Warren Medal in the same year.
“While we would have loved to have seen him stay here at Melbourne Victory for a little longer, we knew we couldn’t stand in the way of his European ambitions. He’s rightly attracted plenty of attention around the globe for his efforts this year,” Postecoglou said in a club statement. “He’s obviously a very talented young man and has been rewarded for his stellar efforts this season by winning the prestigious Johnny Warren Medal and the NAB Young Footballer of the Year, the first A-League player to win both those awards in the one season.”
Signed by Victory for the start of the 2011/12 campaign on the back of an attention-grabbing debut season with Wellington Phoenix, Rojas was a ghost of his former self under Mehmet Durakovic and then Jim Magilton in his first year in Melbourne. Enter Postecoglou and a game-plan tailor-made for the Kiwi-s explosive pace and his threat down the flanks was always guaranteed to deliver results for the young starlet.
The truth is, if there was going to be one player to flourish under Postecoglou, it was going to be Rojas. Twenty-five minutes into the opening game of the season was all it took for the diminutive winger to do what he could not all of last season – score a single goal. Before season-s end, he-d add another 14 to his tally; some crafted by his own ingenuity, others the final product of a move involving other members of the attacking quartet of Gui Finkler, Marcos Flores and Archie Thompson.
Filling the void left by Rojas will serve as Postecoglou-s biggest challenge during the off-season. In Connor Pain and Andrew Nabbout, Postecoglou has players capable of executing certain components of the required role. Yet, as quick as they may be and in sync with the Victory brand of football, they-re no Marco Rojas, and really, it-s as simple as that.
For Victory fans, there-ll be some gratitude that Rojas stayed until the very end, as for a moment there in January, it seemed as though the lure of Europe would see Rojas follow the A-League-s other starlet, Tomas Rogic, abroad. Scouts from Liverpool and Juventus were widely known to be keeping close tabs on the player dubbed ‘Kiwi Messi-, while Kuwaiti businessman and owner of English Championship club Nottingham Forest, Fawaz Al Hasawi, was also keen on signing Rojas earlier this year.
When he fulfills his last club commitment by attending the Victory Medal Night next Friday, he-ll leave as the club-s top goalscorer, leading goal provider with eight assists and potentially with the Victory Medal hanging around his neck. He-ll also leave with the blessings of the Victory faithful, who know all too well they may have witnessed a true star in the making.