Paolo Rossi: ‘Giovinco can be MLS trendsetter’

Gerry Dobson and Paul Dolan recap TFC’s loss to the New England Revolution.

TORONT0—The list of superlatives that local reporters have used to describe Sebastian Giovinco during his debut season with Toronto FC is a long one—and for good reason.

Giovinco, 28, has enjoyed an explosive 2015 MLS campaign thus far, scoring 17 goals and adding 13 assists, and he has emerged as a leading candidate to win the league’s MVP award.

Writers who cover TFC on a regular basis have exhausted their respective thesauruses when it comes to Giovinco. Adjectives such as dynamic, phenomenal, unbelievable, magical and extraordinary routinely pepper the many articles that have been written about the Italian.

But courageous? That’s a new one.

Courageous is how Paolo Rossi, Italy’s 1982 World Cup hero, described Giovinco—he believes his countryman showed great courage when he left Juventus in order to come to Major League Soccer this past off-season.

“At the beginning, I was very surprised because he is quite young and not at the end of his career. So I thought it was a very courageous choice he made to join this project in North America, especially because he had a number of other options in Europe,” Rossi said through an interpreter.

Rossi, 58, was in Toronto this past weekend to promote “Italian Football Heroes,” a legends game and Italian cultural event scheduled for March 5, 2016, at Ricoh Coliseum. On Sunday, he was at BMO Field to see Giovnco in the flesh in TFC’s 3-1 loss to New England, the first MLS match Rossi has ever watched.

Rossi argues that Giovinco could be an important trendsetter in MLS.

“Giovinco could be the first in the series of high-level players joining MLS and it’s very important how he performs and how much he’ll be committed because he can be a very effective example to attract other young and promising players to this league,” Rossi said.

“Players who come to MLS must be committed and believe that the championship here can compete with the European leagues. The big difference will be when the majority of star players from abroad who come are not at the end of their careers and still in their primes, like Giovinco.”

Players are just the start, according to Rossi.

“Along with the players, what’s more important will be the head coaches who will join MLS. Because if you want to improve the tactics and the standard of play you must have the best coaches,” Rossi offered.

Rossi shot to fame at the 1982 World Cup in Spain when he led Italy to its third title. A former Juventus star himself, he bagged a hat trick against Brazil in the second round, a brace in the semifinal vs. Poland and the opening goal in Italy's win over West Germany in the final.

Rossi won the Golden Ball as the tournament's MVP and the Golden Boot as top scorer. He also claimed the Ballon d’Or as the European Footballer of the Year in 1982.

Giovinco was born five years after that World Cup victory, but said he was honoured to have lunch with Rossi, who is an Italian icon due to his heroics in Spain, during his recent visit to Toronto.

“In Italy he's a hero because in Italy you live with soccer, so winning a World Cup is something unique. Rossi was the man of the World Cup,” Giovinco said.

John Molinaro will have another story on Paolo Rossi later this week for