It was the news no AS Roma fan wanted to hear. On Tuesday morning, the club’s official website announced that Captain and Giallorossi legend Daniele De Rossi would be leaving at the end of the season, and his final match would be at home to Parma on May 26th.
After supporters had to say goodbye to Francesco Totti upon his retirement at the end of 2016/17, they will now have to face another painful exit for another one-club man just two years later. Indeed, De Rossi is second only to Totti on the all-time Roma appearance list with a total of 615 since his debut in 2001.
“On behalf of everyone at Roma, I’d like to thank Daniele for his incredible dedication to this club and assure him that our doors will remain open for him to return to the club in a new role whenever he wants,” revealed American owner James Pallotta in a statement.
But while Palotta and the management team wanted him in an off-field role, the player has expressed a desire to remain on the pitch. “I imagined myself bandaged up and them asking me to continue playing, De Rossi revealed in his explanatory press conference on Tuesday afternoon. “It didn’t happen that way, but I have to accept it and move forward.
“If I’d been a director, I’d have renewed the contract of a player like me,” he continued. “I did well when I played and resolved issues in the dressing room. If I was a director, I’d have renewed my own contract, but I can’t do anything now.”
What’s for sure is that the ramifications from this unwanted exit will continue, but it would be remiss not to reflect on a truly exceptional career in Italy’s capital for De Rossi.
It’s almost blasphemous to say that the midfielder was unlucky to have been part of a side that contained natural leader Totti, but it must be underlined that in any other team, De Rossi would’ve almost certainly been made Captain at a far younger age. He joined Roma’s youth sector in 2000, and quickly moved up to make his senior debut under Fabio Capello the following year.
His reputation is that of a tough-tackling player, and one who always wore his heart on his sleeve. Such a sentiment is undoubtedly true, and added with his maturity, leadership, quality of passes and goals at crucial moments, he can be considered as one of the very best – and most loyal – midfielders in world football.
An outstanding level of awareness on the field has allowed him to work efficiently under a number of different bosses whilst at Roma, negotiating the demands of a highly tactical league with ease. The Ostia-native has everything required in his chosen role; the ability to break up play, win the ball back and protect the defence, as well as aptitude for making forward runs, neat passes and delivering quality set-pieces.
Nothing epitomises De Rossi’s career more than his performance in the 2006 World Cup. He had just been voted Serie A’s Young Player Of The Year, and at 22 years old was included by Marcello Lippi in his final squad for the tournament. He was regarded highly enough by the Coach to start in both of the opening group stage matches, only to receive a red card in the second of those games for delivering a horrific elbow in the face of opponent Bryan McBride.
The incident was bad enough to elicit an apology from De Rossi after the match, but he would be suspended for four matches by football’s governing body FIFA. That his very next appearance would be in the World Cup final versus France did not seem to phase him, and he coolly stepped up to score the Azzurri’s third penalty as they won the match and lifted the highly coveted trophy that year.
That would be his best achievement to date, as many may be surprised to note that his only club honours are two Coppa Italia wins and a Supercoppa Italiana trophy. Nevertheless, his loyalty to his home city has been unwavering, even when Manchester United came calling while he was at his peak.
Last season he took his side to a Champions League semi-final, and was, of course, instrumental in providing the necessary grit and determination that saw them defy all the odds to have done so. Despite struggling with injury this term, the 35-year-old veteran has put in a series of typically adept performances when called upon, making the decision to cast him adrift seem a strange one indeed.
Time will tell, but Roma could well end up missing Daniele De Rossi even more than he will miss them.