x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola sets sights on Giuseppe Rossi

Pep Guardiola has made the acquisition of Giuseppe Rossi, the Italy striker, his main priority as he seeks to reinforce his Barcelona team for next season.

Giuseppe Rossi, left, has caught the eye of many clubs this season due to his excellent form with Villarreal
Giuseppe Rossi, left, has caught the eye of many clubs this season due to his excellent form with Villarreal

Pep Guardiola has made the acquisition of Giuseppe Rossi, the Italy striker, his main priority as he seeks to reinforce his Barcelona team for next season.

Aware of the difficulties Barca have encountered attempting to compete for three major trophies with a shallow senior squad, Guardiola is also in the market for a new centre back and retains a keen interest in the Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas.

Rossi has been outstanding for Villarreal this season with his 16 Primera Liga goals the highest return for a player outside the division’s top two sides.

In all competitions, the US-born striker has scored 29 times in the current campaign including a haul of 10 from 12 appearances as Villarreal have progressed to the semi-finals of the Europa League.

In the last transfer window in January, the Spanish club rejected a series of offers from Tottenham Hotspur for the 24-year-old, culminating in a deadline-day bid of €35 million (Dh187.5m).

Though Rossi agreed a contract extension the same month he expects to be allowed to leave the Yellow Submarine if a similar sum is offered with sufficient time for Villarreal to recruit his replacement.

While Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager, remains eager to sign Rossi, his chairman, Daniel Levy, will not match the wages on offer at Barca.

Levy is also unlikely to sanction a further bid of that magnitude should Spurs fail to qualify for the Champions League.

Barca have used Lionel Messi as a withdrawn centre forward for much of the season, and adding Rossi would increase Guardiola’s attacking options.

The Italian would also reduce the demands on David Villa, who recently went 11 club games without finding the net. His potential acquisition has found favour with Gerard Pique, the Barca defender and formerly Rossi’s teammate at Manchester United.

“How I’d like to have him on my side again,” said Pique. “He is not only a friend from my time in Manchester, but a striker of absolute quality. He knows how to do everything well. He has an assassin-like left-foot and a lot of goals in his feet.

“Today, Rossi is one of the opponents who makes me suffer the most because he is little, quick and technical. Didier Drogba is an outstanding player, but I’d rather defend against him any day. Giuseppe is slippery, a second is all it takes to lose him.”

sports@thenational.ae