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Giuseppe Rossi, Fiorentina, Italy, USA & what might have been

It’s been a good week for Fiorentina striker Giuseppe Rossi. He played in yesterday’s 2-0 away win against AC Milan. And, while his team lost midweek, he scored from the penalty spot Wednesday, giving his side its only goal in a 2-1 home loss to league leaders Napoli. The goal was Rossi’s ninth of the season and the New Jersey born striker is currently Serie A’s leading scorer, sitting atop a list that includes names like Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Balotelli.

Eleven match days in and Rossi is on the cusp of a breakout season with the Viola in Italy. The anterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered at Villarreal in Spain now seems to be behind him and has more than justified the 10 million euros the Italian outfit splashed for him in the transfer market last January.

His recent hat trick against Juventus led a brilliant comeback against the reigning Serie A champions, inspiring his side to come from 2-0 down to win 4-2.

Of course as inspiring as his performances have been this season, the subject of Giuseppe Rossi will always remain a sore one for American soccer fans. In a nation where the at times still-struggling Jozy Altidore competes with a relative unknown quantity like Aron Johannsson to lead the line; watching a player whose Twitter bio reads, “Been around the world… Hometown is always NJ,” but still opted to play for Italy not the U.S., blossom into one of the deadliest strikers in Europe leaves a bittersweet taste in one’s mouth.

In 2006, Rossi was courted by then-USA coach Bruce Arena ahead of the World Cup. But by then the striker had made the decision to play for Italy.

While it remains a difficult pill for U.S. fans to swallow, it’s not impossible to see the player’s side of things. After all, Rossi was in his teens at the time, on the books at Manchester United and playing on loan at Newcastle United. By then he’d already represented Italy at just about every level from U16 to U21.

Most teenage players at that stage in their careers, if offered a chance to play for a team that had a pretty good chance of qualifying for the World Cup or a team that had a pretty good chance of winning it could hardly be blamed for choosing the latter.

Yet despite his 20 goals for Italy, Rossi has yet to feature for the Azzurri in a major tournament, apart from the 2008 Summer Olympics and the 2009 Confederations Cup (where he scored against the United States).

Although with the Fiorentina man on his current form and Balotelli floundering, it would seem that Rossi would have to be in the conversation for selection when it comes to Italy’s squad for Brazil next summer.

Still, with his club career in full flight again and with the country of his birth fielding a dynamic, capable, vastly-improved team that’s nonetheless, still crying out for a world class striker, one can only wonder if Rossi too from time to time allows himself to ponder what might have been.

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  1. Dean Stell

    November 3, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    Ehh…..I’m just not worrying about it. It would have been nice to have him, but everything he did was within the rules.

    I just have no idea what the pull of a “home country” must be like for an immigrant family, so I can’t judge. I know some immigrants who are more patriotic about the US than I am and I know some who still identify with their ancestral homeland.

    Let’s also not forget that he made this choice when he was a teenager. Who knows what went into that decision? Maybe he was really good friends with the guys on the Italian youth teams. Maybe there was a hot Italian girl involved. Who knows. I know I made lots of odd decisions when I was a young man.

    Anyhow…..It would be nice to have had him play for the USMNT, but I’m also glad that we haven’t had to endure his injury history the last couple of years.

    • KapUSMC

      November 4, 2013 at 11:59 am

      Agreed.. Besides the front 6 isn’t what I’m worried about going forward. The breakdown that lead to losing Neven Subotić is much more painful. How nice it would it be to have the back line anchored by a world class CB?

  2. Andre

    November 3, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    It sucks but that’s the way it is in football. Take a look back over the last fifteen years or so, it is astounding how many players have appeared (and won) international competitions for other countries.


    November 3, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Yes it’s painful especially as I am an Italian–American myself and feel Rossi did the US wrong but let’s forget about it now,

  4. Flyvanescence

    November 3, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Another article whining about Rossi not playing for USA.

    Get over it. Our awful development system missed him. He has Italian parents and an Italian club (Parma i believe?) signed him as a kid. Why would he WANT to play for USA?

    He has no ties to American soccer except that he was born and occasionally lives here.

    • michael

      November 3, 2013 at 4:14 pm

      “He has no ties to American soccer except that he was born and occasionally lives here”

      You’re funny

    • dck

      November 4, 2013 at 7:51 am

      So the family benefits from living in NJ:
      Parents secure good teaching jobs in Clifton that afford them a comfortable and secure life. Their son gets a good early education either in Teaneck or Clifton.

      He then turns his back on his birth country to play for one with a better chance. The same country of birth that was obviously a land of opportunity for his family otherwise why move here?

      Sounds about right in this day and age. Just like the majority of expats on this site that live, raise families, and earn money in this country and then take every opportunity to bash it.

      • Taylor

        November 4, 2013 at 10:22 am

        On the other hand, US have benefited from players who were also eligible to play for other countries but chose to play for the US. In 1994 world cup, we had Roy Wegerle, Thomas Dooley; in 1990 we had Fernando Clavijo and Tab Ramos.

        • dck

          November 4, 2013 at 11:02 am

          What’s your point? Did I say I was a proponent for those players being included in the US squad? No, my comment actually relays the opposite message. It’s not how the US can aquire foreign players through loopholes. It’s about US citizens who have reaped benefits as such turning their backs and playing for other countries.

          Please stick to the context of my comment.

          • Taylor

            November 4, 2013 at 2:40 pm

            My point is: it works both ways. Those players grew up outside of the US but believed that representing US would be a wise decision.
            Also, why are you generalizing expats on this site? You don’t know any of them, do you?

          • dck

            November 4, 2013 at 6:59 pm

            Still doesn’t apply to my comment. To answer your question – yes through previous discussions on this site. Try again…

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