Villareal's leading scorer Giuseppe Rossi is looking forward to playing against his old club Manchester United in the Champions League.
Rossi: I grew up as an individual
Villarreal like doing business with Manchester United. Diego Forlan cost less than ?2.35million (Dh11m) and was Spain's top-scorer and the joint winner of the European Golden Boot in his first season, before moving to Atletico Madrid for ?17.6m. In 2007, Villarreal returned to shop at their favourite store and spent half the Forlan money on the 5ft 8in striker Giuseppe Rossi, whom United reluctantly let go.
The Italian American, 21, who made his full Italy debut last week, will face United tonight as the two clubs battle for top spot in Champions League Group E. "It's exciting to play against United, they're my old team and the European champions," Rossi says. "I didn't play in the game at Old Trafford in September so I'm up for this one." Rossi is Villarreal's leading goalscorer in the Primera Liga and speaks positively of his time at United, where he was a star in the youth and reserve teams and played several first team games, without ever being much more than a prospect.
"I grew up as an individual at United," he says. "United fans were always very good with me and I want to show people that I have progressed and that I'm a good player. "Sir Alex Ferguson has always been excellent with me too. "He is great with his players and is still doing a wonderful job leading United to titles and trophies. "He's extraordinary in many ways. "His experience means he can give advice to improve players, especially younger ones.
"I was 17 or 18 and he gave me tactical and technical tips which helped me. "He was a striker himself so I think he enjoyed giving forwards a few pointers so that we played like him. I've had a couple of injuries in the past year and each time Sir Alex has texted me to encourage me. That really lifts you and shows that he still cares and still watches your progress." Despite the injuries, Rossi managed 12 league goals last season after adapting to the Spanish style.
"The training is different here in Spain, it's much more about the ball," Rossi, whose childhood heroes were Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten, says. "English football is about speed, aggression and playing the ball in the air, whereas the Spanish way is more technical. It's much more suited to my play because I'm not big enough to be dangerous with my head." And he has no regrets about leaving Old Trafford.
"Spain has been a very positive experience," Rossi says. "Because I spoke Italian I learned Spanish very quickly. The Spanish league is very different to England, as is the lifestyle. The weather is the main difference. It's sunny almost every day here, whereas in Manchester you always saw a bit of rain when you woke up in the morning. I'm really enjoying it here." "We're very happy with Rossi," Villarreal's erudite Chilean coach Manuel Pellegrini says. "He fitted in with the players straight away, has a very professional attitude to training and is our top-scorer. He's a different type of player to Forlan, who was a classic No 9. Rossi is more of a secondary striker, one who finds space for the other players to use, but he can adapt according to the formations we use."
Villarreal finished second last season, 10 points ahead of Barcelona whom they beat home and away, with Rossi playing alongside the Argentinian-Mexican Guillermo Franco and Turkish striker Nihat Kahveci. "You need a good group of players to be successful," Rossi says. "We had a very united unit last season, as we do this. We have quality players in many positions and an excellent team spirit." "Our leaders, the club president and manager, are inspirational people. They know exactly what they want and how to get it. We have a great future."
There's a clause in his contract which gives United first refusal should Villarreal sell Rossi, but, unlike United, the Yellow Submarines currently have no intention of letting their prolific striker go. firstname.lastname@example.org