Giuseppe Rossi has been injured for a quarter of his 14-year career as a footballer.
Now 31, the former Manchester United striker is rehabilitating from his fifth major knee injury, and third involving his anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL).
It has taken its toll on the Italy international, but his determination to play is as strong as ever.
“When I sit back and think about it, I get annoyed and you start going around in circles in your head,” he told BBC Sport.
“Every injury has its own story – it took something away, if it’s a World Cup, the European Cup, or a big transfer.
“But the dream doesn’t stop and I am here today living the dream that I have always wanted to and keep trying to gain what I lost.”
Rossi, a free agent after his contract with Genoa expired at the end of the season, said his “passion” for football – his “little baby” – has helped him through his darkest days.
And he opened up about playing alongside his idol Ryan Giggs, and the lessons he learned from legendary former United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.
‘I love the game too much to quit’
Rossi says he has “kinda lost count” of the knee surgeries – “maybe four? Or five?” – that have blighted his career since he left Old Trafford in 2007.
Ferguson did not want him to leave for Villarreal in a £6.7m move, but the headstrong 19-year-old wanted first-team football after three years in a formidable youth team with players such as Gerard Pique, now at Barcelona.
He was a huge success in La Liga but then his injury turmoil began.
- In October 2011 he tore the ACL in his right knee.
- He suffered a relapse in April 2012 and joined Fiorentina, but did not play again until May 2013.
- He sprained ligaments in his right knee in January 2014 and was out for four months.
- In August 2014 he suffered a fourth injury to his right knee and missed a year.
- Then, in April 2017, during a loan spell at Celta Vigo, he ruptured the ACL in his left knee.
“Every time it happened when I was performing at a high level and was destined to have a great season – it has always stopped me from doing even greater things,” said Rossi, whose contract with Fiorentina ended last July, five months before he joined Genoa.
“It was tough and got lonely. But for me, thinking about what could have been was a waste of time. You get lost in between a lot of negative thoughts that can harm you psychologically.
“I had to keep my spirits up, say to myself all the work I was doing had a purpose. ‘One day you will get what you want Giuseppe’ – that happened when Genoa called.”
Did Rossi, Villarreal’s all-time top scorer ahead of Diego Forlan, ever consider quitting?
“I sacrificed too much to do that,” he said. “I love this game so much, I could never leave it and say it is done. Nothing can take football away from me, it’s my little baby, my love.
“I believe I deserve to be somewhere and unfortunately I am not there, not because of ability, but because of an injury. I will keep fighting and showing I am able to be where I should be.”
Fiorentina were the opponents when Rossi made his first start for over a year – and he marked it with a goal, his first for almost 13 months and first in Serie A for four years.
But two months later he is without a club again – his dream now to add to his 30 Italy caps under new coach Roberto Mancini.
“Just being back starting was a big thing for me,” he said. “I was full of emotions and had to hold them in during the game. It was a circle that closed.
“My job now is to show I am back, having fun again and playing the game and could help any team that I am on to get results.
“When you play, you want to make a name for yourself and leave great memories and I think I have done that at every team I have been at, from United to Genoa.”
‘Now I know why Giggs did yoga’
Rossi is quick to name United legends Giggs and Paul Scholes as the best players he has played with.
Wales boss Giggs played until he was 40, and the memory of him doing yoga is something that has stuck with Rossi.
“I had never seen it before in my life,” he said. “At 17, I asked myself: ‘I wonder why they do that?’ But now I know. Those small things make a difference.
“All those things I saw and remember from Scholes and Giggs definitely stuck with me and I am doing them now.”
Rossi credits Ferguson, who is is recovering after emergency surgery for a brain haemorrhage at the beginning of May, for his “winning mentality”.
“He was awesome. He treated you with the upmost respect whether you were a star of the team or a young player like me,” said Rossi, who joined United from Parma as a 16-year-old.
“Meeting Ferguson on the first day, I saw how humble and down to earth he was.
“He treated his players like they were his children, and the respect he showed a 17-year-old was something I never thought possible.”