“It is not just a moment of joy for our fans, but a gift we wrapped up for all of Italian football,” Fiorentina President Andrea Della Valle told reporters last week. “We are happy to have brought a great talent like Giuseppe Rossi back to Italy.”
The return of the 25-year-old to Serie A has been greeted with great fanfare by supporters of the Viola and neutrals alike. The Azzurri international is undoubtedly one of the best, most promising strikers in Europe, and his signing for the Tuscan side shows the heights that they have reached this season.
Under Vincenzo Montella’s stewardship and the left-field transfer dealings of sporting director Daniele Pradè, the Stadio Artemio Franchi side have become one of the most refreshing teams on the peninsula – capable of genuinely challenging for a top three spot. Their attacking, free-flowing football will certainly play into the hands of the former Manchester United man, with the prospect of a Rossi-Stevan Jovetic strike partnership already whetting the whistles of many.
As the New Jersey-born forward has explained, it’s that brand of play that enticed him to Tuscany. “I would have made this move sooner, even last summer,” he stated at his presentation. “I’m happy to be at Fiorentina. They are the only side who came forward with facts and not just with words. That was very important to me.
“I like the Viola project a lot. I want to be a part of it. There are many youngsters here, but also players of experience. And we all know that Fiorentina are playing the best football in Italy. I can’t wait to start playing alongside Jovetic and Luca Toni, great players.”
The Parma youth product may be saying all the right words in public, but for fans and administrators at the club there is still a huge elephant in the room.
€12m may look like a bargain for a striker who seems to have it all – pace, intelligent movement, vision and a calm serenity in front of goal. But the last time anyone saw those qualities in action was October 2011. Two knee ligament injuries in the space of 18 months have completely curtailed his career, so much so that it was unclear at one point whether Rossi would ever return.
Of course, players all over the world have made a comeback from this notorious injury – Michael Essien, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Alan Shearer have all returned from cruciate tears to re-commence their careers. However, injuring the same ligament in the same knee twice in such a short space of time is of huge concern. And as he explains, there is still no real target as to when he will step back on to a pitch. “I don’t have a particular date in mind for my return,” he said. “My knee is stable right now, but it needs strengthening and it can’t be rushed. I hope to get back to full fitness as soon as possible so that I can play for the Viola fans. Things are going well.”
Reports claim that the end of March could be a realistic date for his debut, but it would be churlish and frankly empty-headed to suggest that Rossi can immediately come in and make a difference to the Gigliati’s season.
A more accurate representation of his value to the side can really only be gleaned next season, where we will see if all the hours of rehabilitation and gym work have paid off.
There is absolutely no questioning Rossi’s quality as a striker – 82 goals in 192 matches for Villarreal shows he can do it. But the question remains, is €12m is too big a gamble for a man who hasn’t played any football for a year and a half?
If there was any place more apt to resurrect your career, the Renaissance city of Florence is it.