Fiorentina may have found a bargain answer to its striking void if Giuseppe Rossi rewards La Viola's patience by returning to his pre-injury form.
In the summer of 2011 Rossi was fit and Villarreal was in the first division in Spain. Reports suggested the Yellow Submarine asked north of 30 million euros for the Italian striker. This week, Fiorentina's bid of roughly 10 million euros (plus up to 5m euros in bonuses) did the trick.
Over the past few transfer windows, reports have linked Rossi with Barcelona and Juventus. He joined a team that finished 13th in Serie A last year. But the 25-year-old isn't complaining. Far from it.
"I would have made this move sooner, even last summer," he said as he was introduced by the club. "I'm happy to be at Fiorentina. They are the only side who came forward with facts and not just with words. That was very important to me."
Rossi's career has held little more than words for the past year and a half. In October 2011 he busted his right knee in a game against Real Madrid. He's had three surgeries on the torn ACL since, re-aggravating the injury when he returned to training in April 2012.
And La Viola aren't complaining that the New Jersey-born striker will continue his rehabilitation with a physiotherapist in New York.
"Signing Rossi was a real coup," Vincenzo Montella said. "This is a talent we hope to recover for the end of the season and we will wait until he has completed his rehabilitation."
Fiorentina very publicly missed out on Dimitar Berbatov last summer. Montella and sporting director Daniele Prade put together a sleek roster of technical ball-playing midfielders, but failed to land an accompanying striker. Instead they turned to 35-year-old Luca Toni on short notice.
"Rossi chose us because we’re doing good work; I can assure you he had many other options," Prade said. "Giuseppe is part of a medium to long-term program. He’s our future, and we got him to become a great team."
Rossi's contract (worth a reported $2.5 to $3 million a year, though La Gazzetta dello Sport pegged it a notch or two lower) extends through June 2017, and Prade mentioned that it includes a four-year extension option. That constitutes a significant commitment to a player who hasn't played for 15 months.
"My recovery is going well, I just need a little more time," Rossi said. "I want to be 100 percent."
At 100 percent Rossi ranks slightly below some of the best strikers in the world. After leaving the United States at 13 for Parma's youth academy, Rossi broke through with Manchester United. His career really took off in the second half of the 2006-07 season, when he scored nine times in 19 appearances on loan with Parma. That helped him earn a move to Villarreal, where he scored 32 goals in all competitions in 2010-11.
He has scored six goals in 27 appearances for Italy, two of which came against the country of his birth in the Confederations Cup. Rossi locked down a starting role under Cesare Prandelli before his injury. Now he joins Prandelli's former club.
"I like the Viola project a lot. I want to be a part of it," Rossi said. "We all know that Fiorentina is playing the best soccer in Italy."
Any praise of La Viola's recent play should come with a salt shaker, since Rossi admitted that he doesn't have beIN Sport in New York. However, it doesn't take an expert to glance at Montella's coaching career and notice the upward trend. After a positive interim spell at Roma (where would Roma be now if it had appointed Montella instead of plunging for Luis Enrique?), Montella excelled at Catania. A year later he took over Fiorentina, and currently has the team in fourth.
"We know what the coach is doing, putting a modern game into practice," Rossi said. "It’s something I really like. This influenced my choice too. I resemble him as a player? I should be so lucky…"
If Rossi returns nearly as good as Montella was, Fiorentina will have found a potent spearhead for its new project at a discount price. And in Fiorentina, Rossi found a club with the upward mobility that includes a shot at Europe, which is more than he might have expected after so long out and with such a truncated resume.
A year and a half from now, the only ones grumbling may be the clubs inquiring about how much it'll take to move Rossi out of Florence.
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