Maxi Rodriguez — A dynamic midfielder known for his powerful running and eye for goal, Maxi Rodriguez has brought all those qualities to bear for Argentina’s youth and senior teams and in the highly competitive Spanish and English top flights.
Starting his career at Newell’s Old Boys in 1999, he moved to Espanyol three years later. It was in Spain that he enjoyed the best years of his career to date, performing with distinction at Atletico Madrid, where he also sported the captain’s armband. Having fallen out of favour, however, he joined Liverpool at the start of the year, a switch brought about by his desire for regular first-team football in the build-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.
Maxi has enjoyed many years of international service. He was a member of Jose Pekerman’s squad at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Argentina 2001, appearing in all seven games and scoring four goals to help the host nation claim the title.
Appointed national coach, Pekerman then selected him for the FIFA Confederations Cup Germany 2005 and the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany. Maxi played in all five of La Albiceleste’s games in the world finals and scored the winner in the Round of 16 tie against Mexico, a spectacular left-foot volley following a superb piece of control. The strike was widely regarded as the goal of the tournament.
The midfielder featured in eight of Argentina’s qualifying matches for South Africa 2010, scoring once in the 4-0 defeat of Venezuela in March 2009, Diego Maradona’s official debut as national coach.
Rodriguez won the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship with the Argentina under-20’s on home turf, scoring four goals in seven matches, scoring the first and last goals for the winners. He made his full squad debut in a friendly match against Japan on June 8, 2003, in which he also scored. After being part of the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup squad, Rodriquez was called for the 2006 FIFA World Cup by national boss Jose Pekerman. On 16 June, he scored twice in Argentina’s 6–0 victory over Serbia and Montenegro in the group stage.
In the round of 16, Rodriguez scored the winning goal against Mexico in a 2–1 extra time victory. He controlled a cross-field pass from Juan Pablo Sorin with his chest before volleying into the top corner from outside the penalty area with his left foot, in the 98th minute. In an unofficial online poll by FIFAworldcup.com, it was voted the best goal of the tournament.
After Argentina lost the quarter-final game against Germany on 30 June 2006, Rodríquez punched German player Bastian Schweinsteiger in the back. FIFA fined him CHF5,000 and suspended him from two matches in the 2007 Copa America for violent conduct. However, after a serious knee injury in a friendly with Spain in October 2006, he missed the continental competition, as national team manager Alfio Basile, whom initially intended to select the player, eventually rested him for precaution.
Rodriguez scored in Diego Maradona’s first game in charge of Argentina, a 0–1 friendly win in Scotland. On 19 May 2010, he was named in the squad of 23 for the World Cup in South Africa and, in the last home game before the finals five days later, scored twice against Canada in a 5–0 win.