|By DEJAN KALINIC
A nickname linking him to the world's best player brings no added pressure for former Melbourne Victory star and Stuttgart signing Marco Rojas.
The New Zealand international, 21, earned the 'Kiwi Messi' nickname during his stellar 2012-13 A-League campaign, when he starred for the Victory and won the Johnny Warren Medal.
His outstanding performances on the wing under Ange Postecoglou saw him attract interest from several clubs before he opted to sign a four-year deal with Stuttgart.
Rojas is one of many players around the world to be named his country's Lionel Messi, but he told <i>Sportal</i> it meant nothing.
"There's no pressure with that. It's pretty special to have people kind of say that about you, but it doesn't bring any added pressure," he said.
"I don't know what people think, that I play like Messi or something? For me, it's nothing.
"It's nice to know people think about you that way but I'm just going to get there, put my head down and work hard."
Such has become the popularity of the nickname, it was used on the Bundesliga website when Stuttgart completed the signing of Rojas in early May.
Rojas considers the time right to take the next step in his career, and Bruno Labbadia's side wanted him more than any other.
"It's amazing what they've got over there for football. I was excited every single day. There was always something new that came up," he told reporters.
"The club were terrific towards me. They helped me out with the stuff I needed at the start. All I got from them was good vibes and it feels like the right thing to do."
Learning German will be a challenge for Rojas, whose role models were Ronaldinho, Diego Maradona and Messi, with his Dad the major player in his life, particularly off field.
Rojas said there were no expectations as he looks to settle and break into the starting line-up at Stuttgart.
"I'm not planning anything. I don't expect anything. I know I'm going to have to work very hard. It's going to be a whole different ball game – another level," he said.
"I know it's going to be tough and I'm just going to go work there, keep my head down and do what I have to do and then it's up to the coach what he wants to do with me."
New Zealander Wynton Rufer has questioned whether Rojas is ready for the Bundesliga, where he played mostly with Werder Bremen.
"Marco is not ready for the Bundesliga," Rufer told German newspaper <i>Schwarzwaelder Bote</i> in early May.
"The hardness of the game is too much for him and it would be better for Marco to stay another year in Melbourne."
Rojas declined an opportunity to fire back at the former New Zealand international.
"Everyone's allowed their opinion. I'm going to go there work hard and just do what's going to be the best for me," he said.