Of all the Liverpool players who have plied their trade for the club exclusively during the dark years of the early 2010s, not many managed to make a mark and to install themselves in the collective consciousness of the fans in the way Maxi Rodriguez did.
Spending three short years at the club and playing fewer than 60 games total, the Spaniard remains fondly remembered for his smart wing play—and his song, an all-timer in the pantheon of player tunes. But it turns out he almost didn’t make it to Anfield.
Having begun his career at Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina before moving to Spain to play for Espanyol and then Atletico Madrid, he became a mid-season signing during Rafa Benitez’ final year in charge when he lied to help get the deal over the line.
“Rafa told me that it was very important for everyone to speak English in the dressing room,” Rodriguez said of his first conversation with Benitez, while he was still with Madrid. “He asked me if I knew how to speak the language and I said, ‘Yes, of course.’”
“I didn’t want the negotiations to fail so I told a little lie. When I arrived in England, there was a press conference. That was when I grabbed him and said, ‘Look Rafa, I need to confess something to you. I don’t know English. The only thing I know is how to say hello.’”
That first six months under Benitez was followed by Maxi managing one of the few standout seasons as the club descended into chaos, bringing in Roy Hodgson, facing down relegation, being bought by FSG, and eventually seeing the installation of Kenny Dalglish.
Then, with Dalglish and director of football Damien Comolli looking to rebuild with a focus on British and chance creation stats, his role faded, and after limited minutes in 2011-12 he returned to Newell’s Old Boys—then to Peñarol, in Uruguay, where he still plays.
Still, for a brief time while the club’s fortunes on the pitch waned and their was chaos off it and managers came and went, there was Maxi Rodriguez. Lying about his ability to speak English so that he could come and run down the wing for Liverpool fans.
“Rafa said, ‘You’re a son of a bitch,’ but we were both laughing and afterwards I learned how to speak English,” he added “I was very good at Atletico. I was the captain and I knew the city very well. But English football drove me crazy and I wanted to play there.”