Glenn Crooks caught up with former Villareal, Fiorentina, and Italy forward Giuseppe Rossi for Pro Soccer USA, uncovering the news that the New Jersey native is rooting for the Red Bulls to win MLS Cup this season:
I’m happy they are doing really good. They deserve it. It’s a great group of guys and I’m really pulling for them to take the title back home.
To be fair, Rossi has been rooting for the New York Red Bulls for a while now, mostly because he has been hanging out with them for a while. As Kristian Dyer noted when he spotted Rossi at RBNY training back in July, “his appearance [is] an annual rite of passage around these parts”. Chris Armas appeared to concur, talking about Rossi’s presence in training as a sort of feature of the club’s technical set-up:
This time of year when Giuseppe comes around, he fits in seamless to the group because of who he is as a person...I see him lots of times talking to players, mentoring and teaching – ‘Hey, how about this.’ Even with me, we’ve had some good soccer conversations. He’s always welcome here.
In October 2017, during another training stint with RBNY, Rossi told calciomercato.com’s Matthew Klimberg he’d be rooting for the Red Bulls in the MLS playoffs. Why should it be any different this year?
The only thing that appears to have changed this year is Rossi is now actively interested in upgrading his role at RBNY from itinerant training-ground mentor to full-time member of the squad.
Rossi-to-RBNY rumors are not at all uncommon: he’s a high-profile player, injuries have repeatedly interrupted his career with various clubs in Europe in recent years, and he keeps popping up on the Red Bulls’ training field - of course there are rumors.
But in years past those rumors have tended to be slapped down by Rossi himself. In 2016, he told Empire of Soccer he’d be open to playing for RBNY in future, but was currently “focused on my career in Europe”. In 2017, he told calciomercato.com, “I’d like to go back to Italy, if there are teams that want me”.
His last contract was with Genoa and it expired at the end of the 2017-18 Italian season. He hasn’t found a new club since, which is why he’s reportedly been hanging out with RBNY since May. And he told Glenn Crooks he’s open to hanging out with the Red Bulls a while longer:
I would love to be a part of the soccer culture that is around this area – the New Jersey/New York area – obviously, it takes two to tango, am I right? I would love to sit down to talk.
Any club that signs Rossi will need to persuaded that he has definitively shaken off the seemingly ceaseless string of injuries that have plagued him in recent years. Those injury issues and the fact he left Genoa with the threat of a one-year ban for a doping violation hanging over him are the primary reasons he hasn’t found a new team yet.
The doping matter is settled now. The injury question can only be conclusively answered through regular competitive playing time. He will be 32 in February: heading out of his prime and toward what might be considered the twilight of his career.
While he certainly seems to like the Red Bulls and be liked by the Red Bulls, his age and injury profile - and the suspicion that his salary requirements likely skew toward the “proven Serie A goalscorer” end of the scale - make him an unlikely candidate for a contract with RBNY.
But Rossi is still the all-time, all-competitions record goal scorer for Villareal. He was a regular Italian national teamer from his U-16 days until the senior team stopped calling him in 2014. He’s scored goals everywhere he’s been since turning pro in with Manchester United in 2004. And he’s never played a minute of competitive, pro soccer for a team in the country of his birth, let alone one local to to his home state, New Jersey.
The sit-down with Glenn Crooks is Rossi’s way of reminding people he’s still around, and he’s no longer exclusively focused on getting back to Europe as soon as he can. But he didn’t need to submit to an interview to tell RBNY he’s willing to talk - seems like he’s seen a lot of the Red Bulls this year.
Ultimately, if Rossi’s training-groung relationship with RBNY has helped the Red Bulls during their best season ever and helps a blighted player get his career rebooted, that would seem like a win for both parties and probably as much as either was hoping for when they first started making time for each other.