MLS: Giuseppe Rossi illustrates veteran uncertainty

Giuseppe Rossi has revealed his interest in a move to MLS. The prospect of his signing illustrates the uncertainty of signing veteran, ageing players.

Atlanta United are revolutionising Major League Soccer. Their purposeful targetting of young, South American talent and turning away the ageing, European veterans that many other clubs have looked to build their teams around has changed the way that other organisations have looked to assemble their squads.

There is a growing departure from the slightly dimmed European star. None of the four Conference finalists this season have an ageing Designated Player from Europe. Only three of the12  playoff teams do: Wayne Rooney at D.C. United, David Villa at New York City FC, and Carlos Vela at LAFC, and Vela is still only 29.

The point is clear: A successful MLS team is not one that rests on the retirement mantra that has defined the league for many years.

But that does not mean that these veteran DPs cannot have a positive impact on their respective teams. Three of the five MVP nominations are from Europe: Rooney, Vela and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. There is still some value in these players. The problem comes in the fact that you never know what version of the player you will be getting. Will it be Steven Gerrard or David Beckham? Frank Lampard or Bastian Schweinsteiger?

This leads me to Giuseppe Rossi, a journeyman striker who has enjoyed relative success in Europe — he was excellent at Villareal for a period, but his knee injuries have curtailed his career, never quite fulfilling his potential. Speaking to Pro Soccer USA, Rossi revealed that he does have some interest in a move to MLS, especially one of the New York clubs given he grew up in New Jersey:

“These are all possibilities I am keeping open, obviously. Coming home and playing home would be something amazing. It would be something amazing because this area in New Jersey is in my blood. 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.”

Rossi has been in training with the New York Red Bulls while he does not have a club, trying to stay in shape as he searches for a new team. The Red Bulls do seem like an obvious candidate should Rossi indeed sign a deal with an MLS organisation. But they must question what Rossi they will be signing — they are, it should be stated, in a much better position than many other teams to make a judgement seeing as he has been training with them since the summer.

Will it be the Rossi of Villareal? The sharp-shooting, quick-dribbling, goal-grabbing centre-forward? Or will it be a 31-year-old who has been out of contract since May and comes with an extensive history of career-riddling knee injuries?

You will not know until you sign the player. That is the uncertainty that comes with signing any player. But it is especially true with the aged and oft-injured. Rossi may be talented, but can he be productive?