Rojas gives hilarious reason for kit number choice as Chiefy makes pledge to excite Phoenix fans

WATCH: Marco Rojas addresses the media after announcing his return to Wellington Phoenix

In an impressive piece of transfer business, Wellington Phoenix have facilitated the return of New Zealand international Marco Rojas to the club.

Rojas was glowing in his praise of head coach Giancarlo Italiano in his first press conference back at the ‘Nix, and explained how Wellington defender Tim Payne helped get the move off the ground. Italiano, meanwhile, gave the club’s fans an exciting prospect to ponder for next season as he gets to work bringing the best out of ‘The Kiwi Messi’.

Recap all the best moments from Marco Rojas’ first press conference back at Wellington Phoenix below.

ROJAS RETURNS: Marco Rojas returns to Wellington after 13 years away & he has a message for the ‘Yellow Fever’

Marco Rojas is back at Wellington Phoenix, and back in the number 21 he adorned 15 years ago when he first played in the yellow and black.

For Rojas, the decision to put the very same number on his kit once again was a simple one: “I had it in my mind – but I did receive a message that said it was available,” Rojas explained.

“It kind of made sense to save my family a little bit of money having to buy new shirts!”

Rojas has returned to Wellington for the first time since the 2010-11 Isuzu UTE A-League season and if was an introduction to Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano that sealed the deal for the 32-year-old.

Italiano and Rojas sad alongside one another as they addressed the media on the morning of the confirmation of his Phoenix comeback; the first question fired at Rojas was in search of a reason for the Wellington move, to which Rojas gave a nod in Italiano’s direction.

“The backstory is mostly sitting here on my left,” said Rojas.

“I got the chance to come in and meet ‘Chiefy’ (Italiano), and talk a bit about football and what he’d been doing here.

“I mentioned to him I’d previously seen from the outside in it looked like a really great environment, and they were hugely successful.

“It piqued (my) curiosity; then after meeting him I found out it related to what I saw from the outside in: a great person and a club that was really in a really good place. So I was really excited to be coming back, which also made it really special coming back to a club I’d played at.”

Rojas revealed a conversation with fellow New Zealand international and new Phoenix teammate Tim Payne prior to the 2023-24 Isuzu UTE A-League Finals Series was the catalyst for his introduction to Italiano and the move that sprung into motion following Wellington’s Semi-Finals exit.

“It started with a message to Payney to see if he might be able to get me in touch with Chiefy,” Rojas said. “I wanted to come and have a chance to speak to him. This was just before the finals, I believe. And we just, for obvious reasons, postponed that to the end of the season. 

“Cheify reached out we had a conversation and then decided my father and I wanted to come down and Wellington and it just grew from there.”

“For me, the most important thing was how relatable Chiefy is as a person,” Rojas added.

“I’ve been playing for 14-15 years and took 10 months out of the game to find that passion again, because I wanted to find places where I could be acknowledged as a footballer and a person. That’s really important – and I felt that here.”

The feeling is mutual between Rojas and Italiano.

Affectionately known as “Chiefy”, Italiano took on the top job at the club in 2023-24 and led the ‘Nix to a best-ever points tally (53), a highest-ever finish on the table (second) and to the cusp of the Grand Final.

The Phoenix have retained the club’s top scorer from 2023-24 in Kosta Barbarouses but have lost Polish striker Oskar Zawada and emerging youngster Ben Old.

But Italiano has expressed his firm belief in his ability to get Rojas playing the best football of his career once more at the Phoenix this season, in a new formation built specifically to suit his attacking talents.

Rojas won the 2013 Johnny Warren Medal as the best player in the Isuzu UTE A-League whilst at Melbourne Victory.

“I think he’s a special player,” Italiano said. “He’s been around the league for a number of years, he’s had the experience overseas, and my messaging was all around getting him back to the best form of his life, which I still think is around that 2016-17 year (when) he had an unbelievable season. 

“I truly believe I can get him back to the best football of his career. I’m really looking forward to getting him matched up with someone like Kosta (Barbarouses) and (David) Ball and some of the younger boys as well. And I think he can give us an extra dimension.

“He’ll be one of the front three attacking positions. We are going to change the formation a little bit going into next season, without going into detail.

“But for me I don’t see him as a winger or a 10, I see him just as a natural attacker so we’re going to play to those strengths. We’re going to basically evolve the system to fit his profile which I think is very, very important.

“We still have one or two recruitment opportunities for further attackers to complement Marco as well as Kosta, Bally and Oskar (van Hattum) – even the younger boys, Sups (Luke Supyk) and Gab Sloane-Rodrigues. We’ll play to his strengths more than anything.”

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