Major international tournaments have been something of a bête noire for Giuseppe Rossi. After 17 goals in all competitions for Villarreal in 2009-10, the striker was cut from Marcello Lippi’s Italy squad on the eve of the World Cup in South Africa.
Two years later, in his push to make the 2012 European Championships, Rossi injured his anterior cruciate ligament for a second time. As he told Fox Sports this month: “During my recovery from the first knee injury, I thought a lot about the future and I thought about being at the Euros and I paid the price. I learned that I need to go step by step in the future.”
After recovering from two career-threatening injuries and three difficult surgeries, the 26-year-old is back and playing some of the best football of his career. Eleven goals in 12 Serie A games this term have seen the Azzurri international go straight to the top of the Capocannoniere charts and return to Cesare Prandelli’s national squad.
Illness may see him miss the friendly with Germany on Friday, but if this form continues, it seems likely that Rossi will be seriously pushing for a starting shirt at the World Cup. The goalscorer, however, is trying not to think about being on the plane to South America next summer.
“It's a dream for all of us,” he admitted. “But I've learned to take things day by day, so I don't want to think too far ahead. I want to think about today's training for now, these matches, and Fiorentina. I can think about the World Cup later on. I hope I'm in great form when the call-ups are made.”
The former Manchester United man can probably afford to forget about a holiday in 2014 though. In a free-wheeling Fiorentina side, whose attacking creativity has been lauded across the continent, Rossi has been the outstanding player. With big-money man Mario Gomez missing through injury, it has been left to the American-born attacker to put the finishing touches to the Viola’s moves – and he has done so with aplomb.
His hat-trick against fierce rivals Juventus in October was the undoubted high point, but match-winning strikes against Catania and Sampdoria have gone a long way to the Viola’s current fifth placing in the Serie A standings.
“It's a very important year for me,” he added. “I'm starting over from zero, as a new player. It's a new League for me, and I have a lot of things to learn with a new Coach and new teammates. But so far it's been a good start.”
Gomez declared to reporters in October that his forward partner was “one of the best strikers in the world” and has just “been unlucky with injuries”. And with Mario Balotelli struggling in an average Milan side, it could be left to Giuseppe Rossi to lead the line for Italy at Brazil next June – something his undoubted talent is worthy of.