Giuseppe Rossi’s return to the national fold a major boost for Italy

Following a lengthy period out of the national squad due to injury, the Fiorentina striker’s comeback for the Azzurri will reduce Cesare Prandelli’s reliance on Mario Balotelli.
 Aditya Bajaj
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Giuseppe Rossi’s career has been a rollercoaster ride.

From struggling to break into Manchester United’s first team as an 18-year old to becoming Villarreal’s protagonist during his four year stint with the Yellow Submarine in Spain’s first division, the New Jersey born Italy international has risen and impressed. Top scorer in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, his brace against the United States was the only bright spot during Marcelo Lippi’s disastrous Confederations Cup outing back in 2009. The first goal – a beautiful strike from outside the box – truly made everyone stand up and notice the then 22-year old starlet.

So important was Rossi to Villarreal, that back in October 2011 when he suffered the first of his two major ligament injuries, the 2006 semi finalists ended up in the second division by the end of that season. But back home in Italy the impact was felt with equal measure as until then he had been Cesare Prandelli’s first choice striker all set to lead the line for the Azzurri at the Euros the following summer. The misery was further compounded when a few days later, Antonio Cassano was sidelined with a heart condition and with both forwards out until the end of the season, there was Italy all set for the summer but without their favoured forward line all in a space of four days.

Cassano made it just in time for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine, but another cruciate ligament injury in April, 2012 meant Rossi was out for a further ten months and with Villarreal down in the second tier, the 26-year old’s career hung in limbo.

Until of course, Fiorentina came to his rescue.

Still recuperating in the sidelines, the Della Valle family struck a deal with Villarreal in January this year, to bring him to the Artemio Franchi in what was one of the coups of the winter transfer market. Following their acquisitions of Gonzalo Rodriguez and Borja Valero from the beleaguered Spanish outfit the previous summer, the Viola were firm in their belief of Rossi’s talent when other suitors maintained a safe distance given his tumultuous spell on the treatment table.

Having made his debut on the final day of last season back in May for Vicenzo Montella’s side, Rossi has started this campaign brightly. With 6 goals and 2 assists in 9 games in all competitions, it is safe to say that he may have shrugged off his woeful injury problems for good. Steven Jovetic’s exit and Mario Gomez’ injury makes him more paramount to the project in Florence as Montella looks to go one better than last season and finally help the Viola qualify for next season’s Champions league.

The one person, who must have been more than glad to see this young star make his comeback, though, has to be none other than Cesare Prandelli. Infact his recent call up to the national team for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Armenia and Denmark is the truest mark of his return to the game. It couldn’t have come at a better time as Italy have already qualified for next summer’s showpiece in Brazil and regardless of the results its safe for the former Fiorentina boss to try a few experiments with the squad without really shaking the foundation upon which he has built his team.

Rossi’s comeback to the national team is significant for three major reasons.

Firstly, his versatility is something that Prandelli could utilize upfront. The former Parma striker has played in various formations ranging from the 3-5-2 to the 4-3-3 and more recently the 4-3-1-2 and 4-3-2-1 since Mario Gomez’ layoff rendered him as the only credible striker fit to lead the line in Florence. His attacking style of play and his ability to play in various positions - be it then on the wings or at the heart of the attack or even behind the striker - opens up a lot of scope for Italy who have struggled for creativity in the final third despite being supported by one the best midfields in Europe.

Giuseppe Rossi | Career in numbers


Team Years
Games Goals Assists
Manchester United 2005-07 23 4 0
Parma 2007 20 9 4
Villarreal  2007-2012  193 82 24
Fiorentina 2013 - 10  6  2
Italy 2007 - 27 6  4
Total 2005 -
273 107 34

Secondly, with him in the squad Mario Balotelli may finally have a stable and creative partner supporting him in attack. That shrugs off a lot of responsibility from the young shoulders of the Milan forward who has been the fulcrum and the face of this Italian squad looking to claim a fifth world title in a few months time. Stephan El Sharaawy has struggled for first team opportunities after making a promising start for Prandelli either due to injury or his yet to be proved capabilities as a second striker both at Milan and the national team and that is one of the reasons why Italy have been forced to adopt the 4-3-2-1 system with Super Mario as the lone striker. On the other hand Lorenzo Insigne is talented, but still inexperienced at this level. Italy need someone who is both creative and experienced at the moment to support the former Manchester City striker and Rossi is exactly that.

Third and most important, Giuseppe Rossi provides a reliable ‘alternative’ to Mario Balotelli. Prandelli has had to choose amongst the likes of Alberto Gilardino and Pablo Osvaldo – all capable strikers but not the ones to strike fear among the opposition, while the likes of Insigne and El Sharaawy are more suited to play either behind or on the wings. The dependency on Balotelli renders this team vulnerable in his absence and that could harm their chances during the latter stages of the World Cup. Ultra mercurial and prone to losing his temper at the drop of a hat, Prandelli cannot rely on Balotelli to play in each and every game and the Fiorentina striker could be a credible alternative if he can continue his rich vein of form this season.

It’s October, and between now and next May when the final cut has to be made, there are a host of international matches still to come with enough time to try and integrate ‘Beppe’ into the squad for should he click, Italy have an increased shot at glory next summer with an already strong core playing behind the attack. This could perhaps be one of the reasons why Prandelli was not hesitant to shrug off his principles and still call Balotelli for the next two games despite the striker having been slapped with a three game ban for dissent which ended recently against Juventus.

Rossi is no stranger to the 56-year old’s system having been amongst the core members of his team since taking charge from Marcello Lippi back in 2010 and having played with most of the players before his injury back in 2011, it’s just a matter of time before he strikes the right chemistry with them - more importantly Mario Balotelli.

Two years back, it was in October that the Italian American striker was forced to abandon the national team after helping Italy qualify for the European championship in 2011. How ironical then, that his comeback comes around the same time before a major tournament offering him a chance to once again lead Italy and Prandelli to success.

What better opportunity for Giuseppe Rossi, than the World Cup to make up for the lost time and redeem himself!

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