MONTREAL – Call it the Maximiliano Rodríguez project.
The loan deal for the 19-year-old Argentinean midfielder announced by the Montreal Impact on Monday afternoon includes a purchase option. Impact sporting director Nick De Santis is also contemplating acquiring the player again on loan after the current deal expires before buying the player outright from first division side Argentinos Juniors.
But most of all, De Santis and the club aim to help a troubled individual get back on the right track after a tough few months took their toll on him – that is to say, throwing Rodríguez into games straightaway is not happening.
“He was going through some difficult moments at Argentinos Juniors,” De Santis told reporters on Monday. “He was expecting to make the jump to the first team and he didn’t. For months he wasn’t feeling really well mentally and physically.
“He now needs to renew his thoughts. He’s going to be surrounded by enough experienced, high-level players that can put him in the right frame of mind."
A contact in Argentina, who had monitored Rodríguez’s progress weekly, told De Santis about the former Atlético Madrid academy player more than six months ago. De Santis finally saw two training sessions and a reserve game’s worth of Rodríguez in the flesh during a recent scouting trip to Argentina.
The Montreal sporting director immediately grasped that the technical qualities of Rodríguez, who he described as an attacking midfielder, “but not a No. 10,” were second to none.
“He’s got a good physique, he’s explosive, he’s intelligent enough to know how to work both halves of the field,” said De Santis. “But mostly, he's got this great vision.”
And somehow, after only 24 hours in Montreal, Rodríguez already knows the kind of words that will please the Impact staff.
“Here, you need to be quick physically and mentally,” Rodríguez said in his native Spanish. “That pleases me. … I like to play one-touch, as quick as possible. I like to get into the box.”