The early to mid 00’s seemed to offer both ends of the striker spectrum. On one side, we witnessed some of the best forwards of the modern era. Both at home and abroad. The likes of Dwight Yorke, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, Andrew Cole, Teddy Sheringham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, and Wayne Rooney all shined during their spell leading the line. Henrik Larsson, Alan Smith, Louis Saha, and Diego Forlan had their moments but saw their time limited due to injuries or inconsistent periods. On the other end of the scale, David Bellion or Dong Fangzhuo will remembered with too much fondness.
But there was also a batch of young strikers from the academy who did not manage to make the grade at the club. Some like David Healy, Danny Webber, Daniel Nardiello and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake went to have decent professional careers around various different clubs. One such player has recently arrived back to the scene where he lit up the scoring charts at reserve and underage level.
Giuseppe Rossi begun his footballing education with Parma, upon arriving in Italy from New Jersey. The level of his promise, even at this stage, led United to buy out his contract. His arrival in 2004, saw a period of change at the club. The league had been won in the previous year, but the campaign just finished had seen the club finish third for the first time in Premier League history. Arsenal’s ‘invincibles’ had finished the season undefeated in the league, whilst Liverpool pipped the reds to second spot. That summer also witnessed the arrival of Roman Abramovich’s wealth to Chelsea. From being the main players, there was a danger of being left behind.
Given the senior strikers at the time, Rossi found it tough. He picked some minutes shortly after arriving in league cup encounters with Crystal Palace and Arsenal. Those were rare moments, as he focused on developing his game. His form with the underage side was enough to see him named as Jimmy Murphy young player of the year for 04/05. Following in the footsteps of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Wes Brown and Philip Neville.
The next season saw him make more of an impact. Away to Sunderland brought his first taste of Premier League action. Coming on as a substitute for Van Nistelrooy, he rounded off the scoring in a 3-1 victory. In another inconsistent year for the reds, he still managed to impress his colleagues. Nemenja Vidic gave him his winners medal from the league cup win over Wigan. This was reward for good work in the earlier rounds. He also won the Denzil Haroun reserve player of the year for 05/06.
It was felt necessary to allow the young Italian some game time to flourish. The decision was made to let him out on loan to Newcastle. It was felt that exposure to regular football could only be a positive move for all concerned. The Geordies would have a hungry striker, Rossi would build up his fortitude and United would have a confident player returning to them. It did not work out up in the North East, however. The game time that was promised under the deal did not transpire and he returned having only scored once during that period. A return to his former side, Parma, was more successful. He scored nine times in nineteen games in Serie A to help them move away from the relegation zone to mid-table security. This form began to attract attention from other clubs in Europe.
In the summer of 2007, Alex Ferguson received a bid in the region of £6.6M from Villarreal in Spain, as reported by Goal. Being at a cross-roads, the player had a decision to make. He decided to make the move to La Liga. It was a move that proved beneficial for both Rossi and the ‘yellow submarines’. His debut season saw him net 11 times as the club finished second behind Bernd Schuster’s Real Madrid. His debut season in the Champions League the following year saw him net three goals, along with 12 league goals. It was in the 2010-11 season that he truly made his mark. He helped Villarreal to fourth place in the league, the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup and quarter-finals of the Spanish Cup with 32 goals. This made up for his disappointment in missing out on Italy’s 2010 World Cup squad. An extension to his contract was signed and all was looking up.
Unfortunately, the following year proved to be a disaster. His club exited the group stage without a point. They struggled badly in the league as well, eventually finishing in the bottom three. He suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his knee and was side-lined for six months. Upon his return, he managed to pick up a similar injury, and be out for a further ten months. This was to set a trend.
An agreement was made for him to move back to Italy and join Fiorentina. He soon set about to impressing the Viola fans. A notable hat-trick in a victory against bitter rivals Juventus certainly endeared him to them. He was beginning to get back into the groove and reckoning for international recognition. Going into the new year, he was among the top scorers in the league. Then injury struck again. A tackle received in a game against Livorno put him out of action again. The nature of it attracted wide-spread condemnation in fact. Although he returned towards the end of the season, he was unable to prove himself fit enough for the World Cup in Brazil. At the start of the next season he damaged his right knee again and would be out for another four months.
In January of 2016, he joined on loan to Levante in Spain. The move was designed in order to gain some playing time ahead of Euro 2016. Although netting a few important goals, it ultimately was not enough. He was unable to save the team from relegation and impress enough to make the final squad. He stayed in Spain to sign on loan for Celta Vigo the following season. It was here that he managed to pick up his fifth major injury. It was his knee yet again and put him out for over six months.
Fiorentina let his contract expire and he signed for Genoa on a free transfer. He failed to really make an impact only scoring once during the 17-18 season. It was with the Genovese club that another major blow struck him. He was tested positive for a banned substance during a league game. He protested his innocence in the case that followed claiming to be unaware how it ended in his food. He escaped with a warning, but it put him out of football for nearly four months.
His next step brought him right back where he came from. At the beginning of the month, it was announced that he was training at Manchester United in order to gain fitness. On a visit from his old mentor, Alex Ferguson, he impressed greatly with a smart goal. The Scot is well aware of his talents but couldn’t help but to comment on it. As of yet, no club has come in for him. It was claimed in some corners that Tottenham were interested due to Harry Kane’s injury but no move was made. Ole Solksjaer has stated that Manchester United are unlikely to sign him despite how much of a good luck story it would appear to be. Hopefully, he manages to secure a club where he can show the attributes that held him in such high esteem at an early age.