Considering that Giuseppe Rossi underwent three operations in the last two years and also lost his father Fernando in 2010, there would be ample excuse for the ACF Fiorentina forward to be underperforming.
Instead, though, the 26-year-old seems to be born again on the pitch, making his return to the Italy team last week after a 24-month absence, before scoring a hat-trick in Fiorentina's 4-2 win against arch-rivals Juventus on Sunday. "He has had two tough years, both family-wise and injury-wise," said Viola captain Manuel Pasqual, after the Juventus victory confirmed Rossi as Serie A's top marksman with eight goals from as many games this season. "He deserved a day like this."
Sixth in Serie A with 15 points, Fiorentina have also made a fine start to UEFA Europa League Group E, winning their opening two matches to lead the section going into the first of two meetings with CS Pandurii Târgu Jiu of Romania on Thursday. If former Manchester United FC and Villarreal CF forward Rossi has claimed only one of their five group stage goals – against FC Paços de Ferreira on matchday one – he has looked razor-sharp nonetheless.
"To be honest, we didn't expect him in such good shape so quickly," said coach Vincenzo Montella in paying tribute to Rossi, who scored 11 times in 15 UEFA Europa League outings as Villarreal reached the 2010/11 semi-finals. "There are no doubts about his ability, but I think a lot of his success is down to mental strength, because you can see how hard he works for the team and his team-mates." The United States-born attacker left Villarreal for Fiorentina last January but made a solitary league appearance at the season's end, having finally overcome the cruciate ligament injury which first struck in October 2011.
Montella duly allowed Rossi to enjoy some acclaim during Sunday's triumph over the Italian champions, substituting him late on to a standing ovation from the Florence crowd. "What a day!" Rossi beamed afterwards. "This team is built to win. We have big hearts and great motivation. We have great players on the field and on the bench. Fiorentina can take on anybody."
True enough, and no small achievement given the stress caused by the knee injury suffered by Mario Gomez in September. There were concerns that the former FC Bayern München man's absence would weaken Fiorentina during the autumn period, yet Rossi's form has helped ease those worries. "We shouldn't put pressure on him," Rossi said of his stricken colleague. "He's working hard to return to full fitness and we just have to wait." With Rossi in such brilliant form, Gomez can take his time.