x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Giuseppe Rossi's recovery is complete at Fiorentina

Injuries and a long drought with the goals has not diminished the Italian's drive, writes Ian Hawkey.

Giuseppe Rossi scored after a gap of 686 days, and also a first for Fiorentina. Gabriele Maltinti / Getty Images
Giuseppe Rossi scored after a gap of 686 days, and also a first for Fiorentina. Gabriele Maltinti / Getty Images

No question, 686 days is a long time without sustenance for any goalscorer, even one who started his elite level career very young, while establishing a healthy savings account as a marksman.

Almost two years is a sizeable chunk of a footballer's peak working life. For Giuseppe Rossi, it has often felt like an eternity.

When Rossi, who on Monday made his first Serie A start for Fiorentina, controlled a cut-back cross and slammed it into the corner of the Catania net, it was hard not to celebrate with him.

It was his first goal since October 2011, struck for Villarreal in a Spanish Primera Liga draw against Real Zaragoza.

After a period of demoralising injuries, it was a declaration of sorts that the Italy international still has a top-level future.

Rossi was smothered by teammates, most of whom have come to know a genial character and dedicated professional in the months since Fiorentina took a gamble on Rossi's recovery from not one, but two, cruciate ligament breaks, and paid Villarreal €13 million (Dh63.7m) to acquire him last January.

They were prepared to be patient, but when he could play only 27 minutes of competitive football in 2012/13, it was hard to forecast whether Rossi would recover the live-wire spark that had conquered various leagues before he turned 24.

He has been armed through the gloomy days of immobility, solitary muscle-strengthening, disappointing diagnoses, by a natural fortitude.

The Italian-American Rossi has always taken on challenges, like moving from his native United States when still a schoolboy to pursue his dream of playing in Europe; like joining Manchester United in his teens; like helping rescue Parma from relegation in 2007; like saying "no" to international caps for the US to try for the more-competitive Azzurri; like being left out of the 2010 Italy World Cup squad.

Even without the injuries, the last two years would have been testing. He watched from the sidelines as Villarreal, for whom he played in the Uefa Champions League, were relegated.

He was deeply affected by the death of his father, his chief guide in football. Rossi wears No 49 on his Fiorentina jersey, for 1949, the year his dad was born.

"I thought straight away about him," said Rossi after the game. "And I had family in the stands, so it was a great night."

Italy's national coach, Cesare Prandelli, noted the comeback. If he stays fit and in form, Rossi's long road back might extend to Brazil next summer.

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