When you think of famous Italian-Americans hailing from New Jersey, the fictional legend of the small screen Tony Soprano is probably the name which first pops up.
But during the early ’00s there was another ruthless assassin on the scene who will no doubt be taking a keen interest in Wednesday’s Europa League final between Manchester United and Villarreal.
At one stage, Giuseppe Rossi appeared to have the world at his feet.
Born in the suburbs of New York, Rossi was marked out as one to watch when he impressed as a youngster for the New Jersey Stallions, with a stunning scoring record and a ruthless streak about him.
When he was just 12 years old he was offered a place on Italian side Parma’s youth team, with he and his father making the move to Europe to pursue his football dream.
It didn’t take long before that began to look like a smart move, as scouts from United began to notice his impressive development in Italy, where he had also represented the country at U17 and U21 level.
In 2004 United made their move, buying out his contract when he was 16, and Rossi was quickly earmarked as one of the most exciting young prospects in the United ranks.
It took until November of that year for Rossi to make his first-team debut in a League Cup match against Crystal Palace, and he also had a Premier League bow to remember when he scored just nine minutes after coming on as a substitute in a 3-1 victory against Sunderland in October 2005.
Rossi began to make his name through appearances in the domestic cups, and although he was not involved in the League Cup final win against Wigan in 2006, it was a mark of how much he was appreciated by his teammates that Nemanja Vidic gave him his medal as a recognition of his contributions in the early rounds.
Later that year he earned a new two-year contract, with his manager Sir Alex Ferguson clearly believing this was a player who would go far.
He said at the time: “We are delighted Giuseppe has signed a new contract, he represents the future of the club.
“Last year he had a remarkable season and he is developing all the time.”
Ferguson developed something of a father-figure relationship with Rossi, and was clearly desperate for him to be a success.
But, unfortunately, that was to be as good as it got for Rossi at Old Trafford.
At the start of the 2006-07 season he was sent on what ended up being an unsuccessful loan to Newcastle, where he managed just one goal in 13 appearances, while he spent the following season back at Parma, where he was more prolific with nine goals in 20 games.
He had clearly not quite developed as Ferguson would have hoped, however, and in summer 2007 the decision was made to let him join Villarreal for £6.6m.
In La Liga Rossi finally began to live up to his potential, scoring 13 in his first season, 15 in his second and 17 in his third, while he also broke into the senior Italy team.
The 2010-11 campaign was the most impressive of his career, and he bagged a staggering 32 goals in 56 appearances in all competitions to help his side finish fourth in La Liga and reach the semi-finals of the Europa League.
But at the start of the following season disaster struck.
Rossi suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in a game against Real Madrid in October 2011 which was expected to rule him out for six months.
Unfortunately, he suffered a further devastating setback in training the following April and was sidelined for a further 10 months.
He would never be the same player again, and was eventually sold to Fiorentina, leaving Villarreal as their all-time top scorer and a club legend with a total of 82 goals.
After a promising start with Fiorentina he suffered further injury woe, and was shipped out on further loan spells to Levante, Celta Vigo and Genoa.
In 2019 Rossi made a shock return to United as a 31-year-old to train as a free agent – and even had a surprise visitor when Sir Alex turned up to visit his former prodigy.
Speaking to United’s official website, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: “He looks sharp, he’s looking for a club so Giuseppe is probably going to stay with us for another week, unless someone takes him.
“He scored a fantastic goal yesterday in training. The gaffer (Ferguson) turned around and said ‘what about that son?’
“It’s a bit of us helping him to get fit before his next move, so if there are any takers you should be quick!”
Rossi also revealed he shared breakfast with Ferguson during his return to United, and told an anecdote which summed up the Scot’s famous key eye for detail.
“I had breakfast with him at Carrington the other day,” Rossi he told Manchester Evening News.
“We were talking and talking and he still remembers the transfer fee when I got sold.
“Just think about it: It was 11 years ago and in that 11-year span there have been hundreds of transfer fees and he still remembered my transfer fee when I went to Villarreal.
“It’s great to see him in high spirits and great to see him just being about here on the football field.”
Rossi did eventually get a move back to the States to join Real Salt Lake last February, but the club decided against a permanent contract at the end of the 2020 season and at the age of 34 he is now a free agent again.
Rossi’s story is a fascinating, if somewhat sad one, of a player who promised and, at times, delivered so much, but was cruelly prevented from reaching the heights he would have dreamed of.
Ferguson was clearly massively taken with him, and it is a shame things never quite worked out at Old Trafford.
Nevertheless, given his standing as a Villarreal legend Rossi will surely be cheering The Yellow Submarine on during Wednesday’s clash in Gdansk.
And it would be no surprise if he and Sir Alex have had words ahead of the crunch showdown.