The Argentine Sporting defender has been heavily linked with Manchester United over the past couple of weeks, with a deal now reportedly done, but he will not be an upgrade for the Red Devils.
In the summer of 2012 Sporting, reportedly, beat both Porto and Benfica to the signing of left back Marcos Rojo. He arrived from Russian side Spartak Moscow for a €5m fee and, on paper, it looked like a good deal. It is not every day a Portuguese club manages to purchase a young Argentine player, who is already capped upon his arrival.
As expected, Rojo went straight into Ricardo Sá Pinto’s line-up, but the Sporting manager decided to play the Argentine as a centre back. Neither Rojo nor Sporting had the best start to their campaign, and the Portuguese giants struggled to hit the ground running. A bad start to the season became worse when Sporting visited Porto’s Estádio do Dragão in the 6th round. Losing 2-0 to one of your fiercest rivals is never good, and it certainly did not help that the man of the hour, Marcos Rojo, was sent off 15 minutes before full time.
Sporting continued to struggle and by Christmas the Lisbon team was fighting relegation. Fortunately, Jesualdo Ferreira was brought in as Sporting’s new manager and he managed to turn things around, both for Sporting and Marcos Rojo. Despite picking up another red card, again against Porto, Rojo ended the season on a high.
A disastrous season, both on and off the pitch, had come to an end for Sporting. In March 2013, Bruno de Carvalho was voted new Sporting President and he made immediate changes to the club. The club was, and still is, in a terrible financial situation, but the newly voted President managed to clean up some of the mess Godinho Lopes, the former Sporting President, had left him.
In the summer, Leonardo Jardim was appointed and he became Sporting’s 4th manager in less than a year, and he brought instant success to the club. The current Monaco manager took Sporting to a surprising 2nd place, and Marcos Rojo was one of his key men to accomplish that achievement. Marcos Rojo did improve a lot compared to the 2013/14 season, and especially his concentration and positioning got better under the guidance of Jardim.
At Sporting, Rojo has mainly played as a centre back, but the 24-year-old enjoyed a decent World Cup campaign with Argentina this summer as their left back, which means Rojo is a very versatile player. His passing is also quite good and it is one of his strengths as a centre back. His physique is great as well. He is strong, quick and he is decent in the air.
As a centre back Rojo has been struggling, and especially against the top teams. Despite being a monster against Porto at home in March last season, he often had problems with his positioning when facing tougher opposition. Marcos Rojo does have problems with his positioning and marking (which are quite important abilities for a defender), and due to this there is less of a risk of him exposing himself and the team when he is playing left back. But again, the thought of Rojo to keep track of Walcott, Sterling, Willian or Navas can make one lose sleep.
Marcos Rojo will give his all for you, but that is not always a good thing. He is a very impatient man with a lot of temper. He is the kind of player who can kick away the ball when the opponent have received a soft free-kick, when he is already on a yellow card. The worst part of it? You would not even be surprised. Rojo also has the tendency to throw himself into the tackles, which potentially can be career-threatening for other players. During his two seasons at Sporting, so far, Rojo has managed to pick up 21 yellow cards and 4 red cards in 49 league games.
Striking a deal for Rojo will not have been easy for Manchester United, if the reports that they have are correct. The Argentine is on a contract with the Portuguese giants to the summer of 2017 with a €30 million release clause. Rojo is 75% owned by a fund named Doyen Sport, which have caused problems over the last week. On Tuesday, he refused to train with the team, as representatives from Doyen Sport convinced him that he had every right to do so because Sporting had rejected an offer for him (from an unnamed club). Later the same night Sporting President Carvalho confirmed that Rojo was banned from all activities with Sporting due to his unprofessional behaviour, and that he would not even allow the Argentine to train with the D team.
Sunday night Marcos Rojo did an interview with Sporting’s own TV channel, publicly apologising for his behaviour.
The reported fee of €20 million is a lot of money, and especially for a player who will be no upgrade on none of Evans, Jones or Shaw. Marcos Rojo can do a good job as a back-up at centre back or left back, but a unreliable back-up is not what Manchester United need, based on their performance versus Swansea City on Saturday.
Marcos Rojo will not be the answer to Manchester United’s problems. He is more likely to create more of them.
Harsh words there from Jan Hagen, Sport Witness Portugal expert.