Set to strike: Jets in talks with two South Americans for marquee spot

 Patito Rodriguez

Patito Rodriguez

NEWCASTLE Jets are in talks with Argentinian winger Patito Rodriguez but the one-time teammate of Neymar Junior may not be the South American who lands in the Hunter.

Reports emerged on Tuesday that the Jets were poised to sign Rodriguez from Greek club AEK.

Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna confirmed that Rodriguez was among a “few players” they had identified but said a deal had not been struck.

“We have spoken to his agent along with others,” McKinna said. “That is the calibre of player we are looking at. It is getting very close. Hopefully in the next day or two it is finalised. You can’t just dive in when you are spending big dollars.” 

The Newcastle Herald understands that negotiations are also advanced with an attacking midfielder from Venezuela, who is based in Europe. 

The decision is likely to come down to which player best suits the balance of the team.

Rodriguez spent four years on the books at Brazilian Serie A club Santos from 2012-16. He played alongside Neymar for two seasons before the Brazilian superstar's transfer to Barcelona in 2013.

The 27-year-old Argentine stayed on but played little first-team football after his first campaign with Santos, going on loan twice before joining AEK last season.

Greek website Sportotal.gr reported on Tuesday that Rodriguez was "very likely" to join the Jets after positive discussions between the clubs.

The Jets were close to finalising a deal with a Brazilian attacker a month ago before the player pulled out due to a family health problem. 

Coach Ernie Merrick has since been prepared to bide his time in search of the right marquee.

Wayne Brown and Dimi Petratos have played as attacking midfielders in the pre-season. Brown played the first 56 minutes of Saturday's 2-1 win over Sydney FC in the No.10 role before Petratos moved in from the right wing. 

Petratos scored the opener against the Sky Blues and along with Roy O’Donovan and Andrew Nabbout have hit the back of the net regularly in the pre-season.

Merrick has also been happy with the progress of young guns Joe Champness, Mario Shabow and Kosta Petratos.

The diminutive Rodriguez, who stands at 172cm, is an attacking player who can operate centrally or on the left wing. He has made 25 appearances in the Greek Super League for AEK over the past two seasons and has a strong pedigree in South America.

Rodriguez began his career with top-flight Argentinian side Independiente, playing 87 times before shifting to Santos for the 2012 season.

If a deal is struck, Rodriguez would be the third Argentine in the A-League in 2017/18, along with Melbourne City's Fernando Brandan and Melbourne Victory's Matias Sanchez. 

The Jets play Wellington Phoenix at Jack McLaughlan Oval on Saturday in their final hit-out against A-League opposition before the season kick-off on October 7.

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