“When he's fit and well, Pepito is devastating,” Borja Valero said of Giuseppe Rossi recently, the Fiorentina captain reminding La Gazzetta dello Sport of a fact blurred by a succession of injuries. His team-mate has an incredible record of 17 goals in 26 games for La Viola, a statistic that shows both how deadly accurate the former Manchester United man can be, and just how much action he has missed since moving to the peninsula.
Indeed, that total number of games stretches back to an anterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered while playing for Villarreal back in October 2011, succumbing to multiple problems with the same joint in the intervening years. He finally appears to be healthy once again, returning to action before the international break with a 17 minute cameo against Torino that marked his first appearance in 15 months.
“I hope we can win against Genoa on Saturday, to represent this city in the best way and give our fans some joy,” Rossi said at a recent event. “If I play, I’ll do all I can, otherwise I’ll be cheering on my team.” He also added that he had “never considered leaving Fiorentina” during his injury nightmare, something that must come as a huge relief to the club’s supporters who have endured a difficult time of their own in recent months.
With their prolific goal scorer out injured, Juan Cuadrado had blossomed into a bona fide star, only to leave for Chelsea in January as Mohamed Salah made the opposite journey. The Egyptian ensured the side did not miss a beat however, helping them finish the Serie A campaign in fourth place for the third consecutive season under Vincenzo Montella.
The impressive young coach had won many admirers, adapting a fast-paced playing style that was pleasing to the eye and successful on the field, as Fiorentina also progressed to the semi-finals of both the Coppa Italia and the Europa League. However, a bitter contract dispute with the club’s owners this summer prompted them to part ways with Montella, and a similarly indignant spat with Salah followed shortly after.
Youth team product Federico Bernardeschi shone in pre-season and appears ready to fill the void left by the latter, looking hugely impressive as the club recorded friendly wins over Barcelona and Chelsea. Former La Liga winner Mario Suárez was a shrewd acquisition from Atlético Madrid, adding depth to a midfield built around the wonderful passing and vision of the underrated Valero.
Seeing Salah join AS Roma intensified the general feeling of disappointment however, and that would be compounded further still as Cuadrado joined former goalkeeper Neto in signing for bitter rivals Juventus. Yet more exits would not be too far behind as Alberto Aquilani, Stefan Savić and Mario Gómez all called time on their stays at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
The case of the latter serves as yet another reminder of what Fiorentina have missed, joining the club two years ago as a staggering 20,000 fans showed up to welcome the ex-Bayern Munich star. The dream of a Gómez-Rossi partnership never fully materialised as the German was also hit with a succession of injuries, and he left for Beşiktaş with the pair having played just 214 minutes together.
Even in that small amount of time they bagged five goals, and Coach Paulo Sousa will hope the Italian can return to such incredible form as quickly as possible. For his part, Rossi has clearly been impressed by what he has seen from the new man on the bench, and appears excited at the prospect of what the former Portuguese international can bring to La Viola.
“Paulo Sousa has a lot of experience, and he knows what it takes to win,” the player told Bleacher Report back in July. “He won with Basel last year so it's an exciting time for us. Over the past three years, we've done tremendous work with our style of play as a group and it has been rated as one of the best in Serie A.”
"I think we're fun to watch,” he added, and they are certainly capable of that. It seems that, following a tumultuous summer which has seen a number of rival teams strengthen, their hopes will rest firmly on the shoulders – or perhaps knee ligaments – of Giuseppe Rossi. He has proven more than capable of lifting them in the past, notably with an incredible hat-trick against Juventus, and the Fiorentina faithful would enjoy nothing more than seeing him repeat that feat.
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