Attacking midfielder Marco Rojas, who has been dubbed the "Kiwi Messi" and was voted the Australian A-League's player of the year, has signed a four-year deal with Bundesliga outfit VfB Stuttgart, it was announced on Wednesday.
The 21-year-old New Zealander left Melbourne Victory on a free transfer last month and has signed a contract with Stuttgart until 2017, having scored 15 goals in the A-League last season.
"Marco has just been voted player of the year in Australia, but that wasn't the only reason he was noticed by us," said Stuttgart's director of sport Fredi Bobic. "He is a player who is well used to attacking wide and has real pace. It will be exciting to see how quickly he gets used to the pace of the game in Germany."
Having spent two years at both Wellington Phoenix, then Victory, scoring 17 goals in 72 A-League appearances, Rojas made his debut for New Zealand in March 2011, going on to play 15 times for the All Whites.
"My father and I have spoken to the key people at VfB and they gave the impression that they would be really happy to have me here," he said. "For a player, it's a great thing when the club lets you know that they definitely want to have you, but it will certainly be a huge challenge."
Stuttgart, who won the 2007 Bundesliga title, are currently mid-table in the league with two games left and Rojas said he was looking forward to eventually running out at the 50,000-capacity Mercedes Benz Arena.
"I watched last Saturday's game against Fuerth and the atmosphere is impressive," he said. "I'm used to the Australian league crowds, so to see 50,000 spectators is of course something special."
Having been nicknamed the "Kiwi Messi" by the Australian media, Rojas played down expectations on him. "That's obviously an exaggeration, the Australian media like to use nicknames, but it could have been a worse one," joked Hamilton-born Rojas. "I don't want to say too much. At the moment, I just want to get prepared for the new season and then hopefully prove myself."
Rojas admitted he had not seen many Stuttgart games televised down under, but expects a step up in both speed and skill. "There aren't so many Bundesliga games shown in Australia, but I know that the football is very fast, energetic and intense," he said.