What next for Giuseppe Rossi?
With three minutes of normal time to go they were safe. Villarreal, after appearing in the same Champions League group as Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Napoli earlier in the season, would be spared the embarrassment of relegation with Rayo Vallecano going down instead. Then it all changed.
The prolific Radamel Falcao headed his 36th goal of the season past Diego López with 88 minutes on the clock. No matter. Although Zaragoza were 2-0 up away to Getafe, Granada were holding Rayo to a goalless draw in Vallecano; it would be Rayo who went down. Until injury time, that is.
With Rayo needing a goal to stay up, they won a corner. The goalkeeper, David Cobeño, came up, hoping to make himself a hero. The corner came in; cleared. Cobeño began to sprint back towards his own goal; Rayo were more vulnerable now as they had been all game. The ball broke kindly for them and a shot came in – deflected off the legs of a defender, it fell for Michu, who stretched out a leg and got the ball past the goalkeeper. It hit the bar but bounced down on the line where Raúl Tamudo headed in. The stands exploded. Rayo had done it and Tamudo’s goal meant that Villarreal were down.
The news filtered through to El Madrigal but the President, Fernando Roig, had already left the directors’ box after Falcao’s goal. When he left his seat, his side were safe, when he got to his office, they were down.
It is extraordinary that this is the same club that was a Juan Riquelme penalty away from the Champions League final in 2006. In the past season they have had three coaches – the same number as in the seven preceding years. Chaos has taken over from continuity.
Last summer they had a choice: their two best players, Santi Cazorla and Giuseppe Rossi, would be subject of speculation and it was anticipated that bids from bigger, more ambitious clubs would come in. Villarreal, realistically, could get away with selling one and keeping the other – which is what they did. Cazorla moved to Málaga for €21m, Rossi stayed despite reported £40m interest from Barcelona and Tottenham. However, disaster would soon strike.
In a 3-0 loss to Real Madrid in October, Rossi suffered an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament which would leave him out of action for six months. Upon his return in April he was unfortunate enough to suffer a relapse and picked up the same injury in training, leaving him sidelined for another ten months. By the time he is scheduled to return he will have missed over a year’s worth of competitive football as well as Euro 2012, where it was expected that Rossi would lead the Italy frontline.
Had he not been injured, perhaps things may have been a lot different for El Submarino Amarillo. Villarreal decided to take the gamble and have now lost with the harshest consequences.
The question now is what do Villarreal do with Rossi or what does he do? With relegation comes a plummet in value. At the end of last season, in which he scored 32 goals in all competitions – averaging a goal every other game in the league – they could have asked for over €20m for arguably the best player outside the monopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid. Now, though, the circumstances have changed and, accordingly, Rossi’s market value has too.
Signed from Manchester United for €10m after 70 goals in 72 reserve games, limited first-team opportunities and loan spells with Newcastle and Parma, Rossi began to stake his claim for a place in the Italian national side. Although he was born in New Jersey, the 25 year-old moved to Italy at the age of 12 to become a part of the youth setup at Parma. He was handed his full international debut by Marcello Lippi after impressing at the Beijing Olympics of 2008 in which he was the top-scorer with six goals in six games.
Having his allegiances firmly with Italy has left Rossi open to a tirade of abuse from those of his country of birth – particularly on Twitter, where complete strangers celebrate the ACL injury whilst calling him a “turncoat”, “traitor” and “Judas”. The same people conveniently ignore the fact that José Torres decided to represent America at international level rather than Mexico.
As a striker of international and Champions League caliber, it seems ridiculous to even contemplate the possibility that Rossi might play in the Segunda División. He is a player who should be facing Barcelona at the Camp Nou, not their B team at Mini Estadi.
There have been reports linking Rossi with a €25m move to the newly-crowned Italian champions, Juventus, though it is now claimed that the injury has seen them seek other targets such as Arsenal’s Robin van Persie and Liverpool’s Luis Suárez.
A transfer to another big-name European side could still be on the cards if it is decided that the risk regarding Rossi’s right knee is one worth taking. However, a February return, at the earliest, would need to be consideration before any transfer is agreed.
To injure the anterior cruciate ligament once is bad enough; to do it twice in such a short space of team leaves doubts over the durability. Perhaps he will need to return in the yellow shirt and prove to those who doubt him that his knee can take the strain of playing professional football again, albeit at a poorer level that what he has been accustomed to.
If he can find full fitness and previous form, the chances of Villarreal keeping hold of Rossi are slim whether they win promotion back to La Liga or not.
(Credit to Marco Jackson – Twitter @Marco4J – for the graphs.)