At the age of 32, Giuseppe Rossi was back at Manchester United’s Carrington training ground. The forward who had left the Red Devils back in 2007, was back in familiar surroundings as he sought to rebuild a career that had been plummeted into the depths of despair by a failed drugs test following a game in May 2018 whilst playing for Genoa. Reports at the time suggested that a ban had been the likeliest of conclusions, but a robust defence by his advocates and a denial of any knowledge as to how the illegal substance, dorzolamide, came to be in his system, may have been influential factors in the final result being a warning. His time with Genoa was over though, and the player once hailed as one of the greatest goalscoring talents of La Liga and Serie A is now seeking to resurrect his career.
Born in New Jersey to Italian parents in 1987, Rossi’s youth career began with American club Clifton Stallions, before moving to Parma in Italy, and then to Manchester United at the age of 17. The forward, who had featured for the Azzurri U16 and U17 teams was seen as one of the brightest of lights illuminating the United youth team, but the step up into first team contention as difficult for the youngster as many others at such a high-profile club. In fact, during his time at Old Trafford, he would score just one league goal, although others would come in the various cup competitions when the manager rested first team regulars.
As loans also occupied his time whilst signed with the club, first team opportunities to impress the manager were limited to a mere 14 appearances across all competitions, before Manchester United accepted a sum around £6.5 million from Villareal in exchange for Rossi’s services at the end of July 2007. After a fruitless loan period with Newcastle United, a similar term with Parma may have convinced the ‘Yellow Submarine’ club to invest in Rossi after nine goals in 19 league games suggested that continental football may be more suited to the forward’s talents.
It seemed like a successful move, and three years later, in January 2011, an extension of the contract was agreed, tying him to the club until 2016. Consistent performances fed the belief that Rossi had found a league where he would excel and provide a regular source of goals. Fate was about to deliver the first of series of cruel blows though. In October anterior cruciate ligament injury put Rossi out of action for six months, and a repetition of the injury picked up in training the following April meant a further 10 months absence from the game. It was virtually the end of Rossi’s career in Spain. His record of 82 goals in 192 for a club often locked into the mid-table positions however was worthy enough. The problem remained however of the spectre of repeated injury, and when Fiorentina offered a sum of around €12 million, Villareal took the money.
Rossi’s first term in Italy was severely limited, but with the 2013-14 season, he would prove his worth. Sixteen goals in just 21 Serie A games was mightily impressive for a first term in a league dominated by the stingiest of defences, and a hat-trick in 15 minutes against Juventus turned the game around for La Viola, bringing a 4-2 victory and assuring Rossi of hero status among the passionate fans at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. By January, the following year, he topped the Serie A goalscoring charts, netting 14 times from a mere 18 appearances, but another injury to his right knee during Fiorentina’s 3-1 Coppa Italia final loss to Napoli, put him out of the game until May. Although he would score on his return to the first team, his season was virtually wiped out. After such success, it seems strange to relate, but it’s true nonetheless that he would not score another league goal for the club.
Rossi’s right knee continued to be a problem a training ground injury in August 2014 to the same joint wiped out the entire season. Despite labouring on over the next terms with the club, whether due to the chronic injury issues, loss of form or confidence perhaps, he never managed to rediscover the flair for goals
Perhaps seeking a fresh start, Rossi returned to La Liga in January 2016, joining Levante on loan until the end of the season. Six goals in 17 games suggested that perhaps the injury problems were finally behind him, but they couldn’t prevent the Granotas from hopping through the relegation trapdoor. Fiorentina by now had moved on from Rossi’s time with the club, and he joined Celta Vigo in August 2016 on loan. He would score goals for the club, but now in his late twenties, it looked like his best games may be behind, with many of them stolen away by injury. It was a curse that would revisit Rossi as the season drew to a close. In April 2017, during a game against Eibar, another knee injury, this time to his left leg meant a further six months out of action. Fiorentina understandably allowed his contract to expire, and Giuseppe Rossi who had enjoyed brief seasons as one of the most feared goal scorers in two of the most hotly contested leagues on the continent was without a club.
After recovering fitness, he was offered a contract with Genoa, but a single goal in nine Serie A games was a less than compelling case for a long-term deal, and the drug case ended any such speculation. Now 32 years old, it seems doubtful whether Rossi will ever be able to reignite the spark that saw him plunder goals aplenty in La Liga and Serie A, even if any club of standing decides to take a chance on the aging forward. It seems sadly inevitable that the promise of a young forward was ripped away by repeated injury and when his career comes to an end, all that may be left are brief memories of glory and a lament of what might have been.