As the beaming sun smiled down on Balaídos in the heart of Galicia on Sunday, little did Celta Vigo fans realize that there was a dark cloud in the vicinity. This cloud wasn’t passing above the stadium though, instead hovering over one man, Giuseppe Rossi.
A seemingly innocuous challenge while battling for the ball against Eibar’s Álex Gálvez reduced a man who electrified Spanish and Italian fans with lightning strikes to a thunderstruck shell of a footballer left to rue his bad luck once more. Rossi, who tore up Las Palmas’ defense for a hat trick just six days earlier, was left in tears as he sat on the sideline while receiving treatment and looking up at the heavens, perhaps to the football gods wondering why. Why now? Why does this keep happening?
While those questions may never be answered, football fans watching Rossi’s reaction knew the results that were on the cards for the Italian international once doctors looked at him. On Monday, those results were confirmed as Celta announced that Rossi had ruptured an ACL for the third time in five years.
“Medical tests carried out on striker Giuseppe Rossi reveal that the Celtic player suffered a rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament of his left leg. The player will need to undergo surgery and the recovery period will not be less than six months. Real Club Celta sends a message of encouragement and support to the player as he targets a total recovery. Cheers, Rossi!” – Statement from Celta Vigo.
There’s been little to cheer about for the New Jersey native whose tale has become one of the saddest in recent memory. A player who Sir Alex Ferguson branded the ‘future’ of Manchester United when he brought in the striker from Parma’s youth academy in 2004 is looking at a very uncertain road ahead, a road which may have met a dead end with this latest news.
Rossi’s road was rocky to begin with as he saw few opportunities in a United side boasting a higher touted fellow teen prodigy in Wayne Rooney, as well as Ruud Van Nistlerooy. An unsuccessful loan spell at Newcastle followed before Rossi returned to Parma in 2006, where he showed some of the promise Ferguson spotted. Scoring nine goals in 19 goals for Parma in 2006/07, it seemed he might get that chance at United after all. However, his desire for more first team football coinciding with the impending arrival of Carlos Tevez from West Ham led Ferguson to sell Rossi to Villarreal in the summer of 2007.
With the Yellow Submarine, he more than helped them stay afloat, but was a key figure in their best ever La Liga season as his 10 league goals aided them finishing second, above Barcelona. The following campaign, Rossi netted 15 times in 39 appearances as he helped Villarreal reach the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League and put in a string of solid performances that caught the eye of then Italian national team manager, Marcelo Lippi.
Despite being born and raised in the USA, he declined to play for his native country in order to play for the country of his parents, a decision that still hurts American fans to this day. That hurt certainly peaked at the 2009 Confederations Cup, where Rossi scored twice for the Azzurri against the USA, showing them exactly what they missed.
As for Italy, they got arguably one the most technically-gifted strikers since Alessandro Del Piero in his prime, a player he was often compared to. Combining blistering pace with strong link up play, dribbling ability, movement and the ability to play along the wings as well as a second striker, Rossi was a God send to an aging Italian side needing an injection of youth and ability as they sought to defend their 2006 World Cup title. However, Lippi chose not to take him to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, a decision that in hindsight was a mistake.