As a kid, I loved one of the greatest fullbacks around and still he occupies that cosiest of corners in my reconstructed heart. Rob Jones was such a classy right back but his knees held him back and he had to retire at 27. When you find a player you delight in, injuries can deepen affections and nothing is greater than seeing a talented player return to former glories. The same feelings are emerging once more in view of Martin Kelly's physical travails but there can be a happy ending.
In 2006, I took my little brother to watch his beloved Newcastle United lock horns away to Watford in the League Cup. At that time it was sponsored by the Molson Coors Brewing Company but was known as the Carling Cup as Carling was the brand of beer that was being promoted by association with such an illustrious competition. There was a certain youngster in Newcastle's ranks on loan from Manchester United and his technical ability was a marvel. That night he did not score. That night he did not stun anyone in the crowd. Yet you could see it and you could feel it...this was a player. My brother and I agreed that night that if the 19 year-old didn't make it at Manchester United, he would make it somewhere else.
The player went on loan the following season to a Serie A club that I'll always remember for the exploits of Enrico Chiesa and it was there he began to blossom. Parma owed a great deal to this youngster's goals as the threat of relegation was averted with his assistance. 9 goals in 19 appearances with 4 assists is impressive. Going on loan midway through a season can be tough but 18 January 2007 may have been the day that Parma's season was saved.
Giuseppe Rossi. Some fans may harbour some ill will with his international allegiances but that issue aside, he's a fantastic player. His stint at Villarreal was a considerable success and a year after transferring to La Liga, he earned his first cap for Italy after representing the Azzurri at various youth levels. 82 goals and 27 assists in 192 appearances for El Submarino Amarillo is worthy of respect but it is his approach to the game that thrills. The Italian international who was born in New Jersey was on Barcelona's radar for quite a while and with good reason. A two-footed and flexible attacking player who possesses high levels of creativity and finishing would have been welcome at any club. Picking out a pass with consistency is a rarity in the modern game but it is part of what makes Rossi such an intelligent player. Comfortable in building attacks from deep, expert in creating chances for others, and confident in scoring goals. What could go wrong?
Well..tearing an anterior cruciate ligament injury can derail the brightest of superstars. Taking six months out from October 2011 at the age of 24 could be overcome but breaking down in training around month six would be a harder obstacle. Ten further months out demanded mental fortitude after getting so close to returning. Villarreal were relegated not long after Rossi was injured and he was never to play for them again.
Fast forward to 2013 and within days of the New Year, the Stadio Artemio Franchi would be Rossi's new home as Fiorentina took a chance on a player of considerable ability but questionable fitness at that stage. He would not make an appearance until the final day of the season but sometimes there's nothing like a fresh league season to make an even fresher start. That's exactly what happened for Rossi when the new Serie A campaign opened as he scored Fiorentina's opening goal of the league campaign to help them to victory over Catania. Forget about his goal against a team at the bottom of Liga ZON Sagres in the Europa League, what could he do to in Serie A? Rossi partnered Mario Gomez against Genoa and scored two goals. He pocketed a goal from a trip to Atalanta while he scored another away to Inter Milan. A home tie against Serie A minnows Catania was no problem either and Rossi struck again.
Then along came Juventus, Antonio Conte's defending champions, to test the credentials of Rossi. Being two down at home against one of Europe's grandest clubs and current heavyweights is an even better set of circumstances to announce one's return to the football world. Giuseppe Rossi did not disappoint and with the help of Borja Valero and substitute Joaquin, Rossi took home the match ball. Victory. Euphoria. His story still has chapters to be written but it's safe to shout it from any disused rooftop in your vicinity; Giuseppe Rossi is back.
The Guardian's Paolo Bandini wrote a lovely piece on the La Viola's comeback against fierce rivals Juventus and if five minutes can be spared for some reading then click away.
On Friday, league leaders Roma defeated Napoli to end one club's unbeaten record in the league while continuing an unbroken run of victories in Serie A. That midfield of De Rossi, Pjanic, and Strootman is seriously tasty. Roma still look scintillating so far while Napoli have looked tame in two defeats but Rafa Benitez's side have made an excellent start to the new season. Roma did have to suffer to some degree as mercurial talisman and captain, Francesco Totti, could be out for a month after being substituted with a hamstring injury.
So only Roma and Juventus were undefeated as of Saturday morning but the Bianconeri got a large slice of Giuseppe Rossi. That's 8 in 8 for the La Viola Renaissance Man. AC Milan eked out victory against Udinese but remain off the pace to help Max Allegri avoid the fate that befell Thorsten Fink.
Elsewhere, Inter's participated in an entertaining 3-3 away to Torino, which was the first under the Nearazzuri's new owners. Sassuolo picked up a first win of the season at home to Bologna. Serie A is a good league to watch and much is at stake with only 3 Champions League places available. Roma and Napoli are now firmly in the picture while Juventus will surely finish in the top three. What of the Milan clubs? Much work still needs to be done by both. Fiorentina could make a play for the top three with Gomez and Rossi bringing notable firepower to Montella's outfit. Luca Toni's retirement home, Hellas Verona, persists with impressing Serie A observers with a fine win at home to Parma but more familiar clubs such as Lazio, Parma, Sampdoria, and Udinese might have to be content with midtable.
A couple of games took place yesterday so it would be apposite to afford those clubs with respect. Iago Aspas' former club were at home to Levante needing a win to take them out of the relegation zone but it was Levante who took all three points. The side from Valencia emerged victorious after tasting a dramatic defeat at home to Spanish giants Real Madrid last weekend and that will exorcise some demons as well as continue their impressive league campaign to date. Celta had chances but it seems that Aspas is sorely missed.
Villarreal, former home of the much adored Rossi, had their glorious return from the Segunda Division halted by Athletic Bilbao. Suso's Almeria remain bottom without a win after losing at home to the ten men of Rayo Vallecano. A win would have put Suso's temporary home level with Rayo on 6 points and those are the sort of games that add up to relegation. Relegation battlers must beat other relegation battlers otherwise upsets will need to be made with increasing regularity to fight off ending up in the bottom three. There's still time but winning a game soon will relieve some pressure as well as provide an opportunity for some forward momentum.
It was a successful weekend for a victorious Real Madrid as Barcelona were held to a goalless draw at Osasuna and Atlei lost. Both of Real Madrid's rivals had an opportunity to match a 45-year old league record for consecutive victories for the start of the season. Only 3 points separate the top three and ETW hopes the trio will remain close to give La Liga fans a three way fight for the title.
ETW cannot lie about the undying love for the Bundesliga. Leverkusen, Bayern, and Dortmund all won but there were other stories elsewhere. Wolfsburg's Diego finally managed an assist in the league to help his side win on the road. At last. Diego has been in fine form this season, continuing to repair a damaged relationship with his club and he's an excellent player when focused. Augsburg weren't outclassed and it's good to see the league's lesser lights remain competitive in matches with sides who possess greater resources.
Werder Bremen are in new territory this season after parting ways with long-term manager Thomas Schaaf after 14 years in May. Former Leverkusen manager, Robin Dutt, is the new man at the helm but his side could only manage a goalless draw at home to Freiburg. Werder finished ninth and thirteenth in the last two seasons but whether Werder Bremen can improve from their current midtable position is uncertain. Aaron Hunt has yet to open his account in the Bundesliga this season and Dutt will need his goals to see progress. Elia remains inconsistent but a potential weapon while Petersen is burdened with the responsibility of scoring goals for Die Werderaner to take points. Taking chances will need work and following Thomas Schaaf will not be easy.
Schalke managed win again away to Braunschweig to record successive wins for the second time this season and continue to recover after a four goal home hammering against Bayern Munich four games ago. Roman Neustädter scored a last gasp goal to push Schalke towards the Champions League slots.