Recently re-signing with Italian side SPAL after spending the first half of the season without a club, Giuseppe Rossi has made yet another comeback. We delve into his never-say-die attitude that has kept his pro career going despite a handful of setbacks.
It has been a hell of a career for Giuseppe Rossi. Ethereal moments of elite football, ones which put him into the top echelon of footballers. Those highs were unfortunately equally matched with periods of pause, where too cruelly, injuries struck down a true wizard of the game. One who transcended boundaries for North American soccer, and what was truly possible for players born on this side of the pond. Some 130 goals later, a myriad of match winners, and a grand tour of clubs with European heritage, he’s still not done yet.
No. 22 has worn many different masks: The spry youngster of Manchester United, an elite prodigy for Villarreal, a Renaissance redeemer at Fiorentina, and now, hopefully, the salvation for SPAL.
It must take a certain amount of courage to get back on your horse after not just one, or two, but four “career ending” injuries. Rossi’s obstacles also verge beyond the physical kind. Past the pushing of weights and countless hours in physical therapy, the mind has to have an incalculable discipline and tenacity to keep moving forward. Most will say you can’t do it, just retire, enjoy the family, get one of those spiffy analyst jobs.
The haters have their own lingo. “You’re washed up, your time is over.” But what most don’t realize about Rossi is that inside the player, is a man who doesn’t speak the language of giving up.
In January, “Beppe” signed a contract for the remainder of the season with Joe Tacopina’s SPAL. You might have heard of Tacopina in other topics, such as representing baseball icon Alex Rodriguez, or as legal counsel for Donald Trump. The Brooklyn native actually dipped his toe in football waters when he joined the American consortium that bought AS Roma following the Sensi family’s economic collapse. He later joined Bologna, where the attorney came across a similar scenario to what SPAL are in at the moment: A Serie B side on the outside looking in.
He helped Bologna back into the top flight, and did the same with Venezia, becoming the first president in Italian football to win three promotions in a row. However, SPAL are currently in the relegation zone at the time of writing, and keeping them afloat could be the trickiest case Tacopina has ever worked on.
They’ve gone through a delicate managerial situation, sacking World Cup winner Daniele De Rossi after bringing him on as Roberto Venturato’s replacement. Radja Nainggolan was signed due to his relationship with De Rossi from their defiant days at Roma together, and Ninja’s new boss, Massimo Oddo, is already being rumored to be outed for De Rossi’s return. Sporting director Fabio Lupo was fired in early March for “a series of precise mistakes,” according to Tacopina.
But there is a clear vision. Despite the rough patch, Tacopina’s project is predicated on a clear path of investing in local talent and players who are property of the club. He cites Atalanta and Ajax as examples, a policy the club has shifted towards following COVID-19’s economic impact.
Giuseppe Rossi is back! 💥
He scored his first goal for SPAL in just his second appearance ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/XbkJOZKg16
— Italian Football TV (@IFTVofficial) November 27, 2021
In steps Rossi, who helped Tacopina in 2021 after signing as a free agent through the rest of the season. He scored after playing just 12 minutes for his new club.
And while he was without a club for the first half of the 2022-23 season, Rossi is now back with SPAL. If his second start is anything like the introduction, we could be in for a ride.
Peter Curto is the partner-owner of Supra Soccer Agency, and is Rossi’s agent. I had a chance to catch up with Curto to discuss Rossi’s perseverance and the meandering twists and turns of his career.
Urban Pitch: Now that Giuseppe has signed, what’s his current mindset?
Peter Curto: I think it’s the same as always. It’s part of his career, his job is to be a mentor and be someone that a lot of younger people can look up to. For him, he wants to use his experience playing at the highest level. But no matter what, he’s a professional and he’s going to give his 110% on and off the field.
What does taking on SPAL’s challenge say about Giuseppe as a player?
I think a lot of people that get a chance to meet Giuseppe will say the same thing, that he’s a very humble, down-to-earth guy. I think his signing with SPAL is exactly that. He’s here to give his all and help his team. They’re in a relegation battle right now but his objective is to always give his best and be able to help his teammates along the way. At the same time, now the objective is for SPAL to stay in Serie B, and plan something out for the future.
Does he feel like he still has something to prove on the pitch?
I think when you go out there, for any player, you have something to prove. You’re wearing your last name on your back, and what you do on the field for that game day is all based on your hard work to get you to that point — whether that’s the preparation training for the week, ahead of the game, or even the years and years of sacrifice and hard work.
In Giuseppe’s case, coming back from multiple injuries, I think a lot of players would have sat out or called it a career, where he could not have to deal with the trial and tribulation of having to get back up the mountain. I think a lot of credit goes to Giuseppe. His mindset is to always be to the best of his ability.
His goal is to play. SPAL’s challenge shows that Giuseppe is a true professional, and someone that’s always going to live up to it no matter what. He had to, at a young age, go to Italy and leave his mom and his sister here, and he had to do a lot in order for him to reach where he is.
Rossi is ingrained as a player who pushes the dream for North American youth, and paved the way for what’s possible in a sporting sense, but also in the mental and emotional challenges he’s overcome throughout his career. His latest challenge is the most daunting in his multi-decade career, but using his past as proof, if anyone can do it, it’s the kid from New Jersey who stole the hearts of so many.