"Giuseppe Rossi will be out for six months; the Italian striker has torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee." As words go, none were more prophetic that those uttered by the disheartened Villarreal press officer in 2011. As if cursed, Rossi’s numerous debilitating injuries stuck like daggers into the hearts of Azzurri fans and football fans worldwide, each blow failing to numb the next. As Rossi now turns 31, he carries the burden of being one of football’s most famous lost causes, but is there time for him to enjoy the career he deserves?
At the USA’s World Cup camp in 2006, then coach Bruce Arena famously proclaimed “We’re not chasing around 18-year-old players that can’t get games for their club team and tell me they want to play for Italy.” Rossi at the time was playing for Manchester United under Alex Ferguson, and Arena’s swipe at Rossi’s choice to represent the Azzurri was not one which rested well with the USMNT. As if cursed for his choice, Rossi suffered Meniscal damage in 2007, shortly after he joined Spanish side Villarreal. A few months after recovering, he suffered Malleolar damage. Although only keeping him out for 11 days, it was the calm before the storm.
After missing the chance to represent the Azzurri for the World Cup in 2010, Rossi later suffered the most catastrophic injury of his career. A cruciate ligament rupture in 2011 saw Rossi sidelined for a mammoth 557 games. Being sidelined for almost two whole seasons for Villarreal significantly hampered Rossi, and such an injury has often been known to finish a player’s career. However, such as Pepito’s character was, he fought on and constantly kept a positive mind frame. This mental resilience only adds to the myth; the impenetrable fortress that was his mind was tragically contrasted by the fragility of his body.
His move to Fiorentina in January 2013, while still injured, was a lifeline for Rossi. A golden opportunity to ply his trade in Italy, a country he held in his heart, was too good to pass. Fiorentina at the time were managed by Vincezno Montella, a manager widely regarded for his Spanish, technical style of football. He was a manager who encouraged the exact type of style that suited Rossi, and on the face of it it was a match made in heaven. However, a reoccurrence of his cruciate ligament injury in 2014 nearly exactly a year on from his move to Fiorentina in 2013 indicated a sinister trend to follow. A string of continuous injuries saw him miss a total of 402 games for the Gigliati.
A loan spell in Vigo for Celta in 2016/17 gave Rossi a new challenge, a chance to restart with his injury woes behind him. A second chance, one which thrusted him into a team where he was one of the better players, in a league which he knew. Then, as if it wasn’t a foregone conclusion, Rossi’s cruciate ligament gave up on him again, famously forcing him to tears on the bench. Rossi knew, before the doctors diagnosed him, and found himself back trapped in the never-ending battle against his own body.
Since recovering, Rossi has setted in Genoa, a club who share a national belief that there is still promise within Rossi. As always, the case of whether he will reignite his career depends solely on the willingness of his knee to hold it together. Now 31, Rossi is neither old nor young, and is aware there is still time to make it right before his twilight begins. At Genoa he finds himself in a team longing for him to succeed, a team who may be one of the few willing to give him the chance to be the player he wants to be.