It was the 57th minute. The whole of Rome gasped in anticipation. Hearts were beating wildly and nails were being bitten uncontrollably as anxious faces filled the Stadio Olimpico.
Roma knew they were on the verge of something memorable. A monumental win that would drown all of their past disappointments and erase their runner-up status.
Gerard Pique’s manhandling of Edin Dzeko had gifted the Giallorossi with a penalty and a bigger chance of heading into the semi-finals at the expense of Barcelona. Up stepped a man born and bred in Rome: Daniele De Rossi. He took a deep breath while eyes firmly fixed on the goal.
He knew a miss was not an option especially with the Curva there. In a blink of an eye the whole stadium erupted enthusiastically with De Rossi bellowing with passion as he buried his spot-kick. The rest as they say is history.
After 34 years the team from the Italian capital will contest in the Champions League semi-final. There hasn’t been this kind of joy since Roma captured the Scudetto 17 years ago.
Reflecting Rome’s nickname; the Eternal City, that Scudetto win remains eternal in the minds of the Roma faithful. And this victory over the Catalan giants will no doubt also be eternal.
Even in a city rich with history like Rome, history had again been made and at the heart of it all was a man with Roman roots. A former ball boy who now captains his beloved Roma.
De Rossi has seen it all in his long-established career, but even he will agree that knocking out Barcelona ranks among the highest of the victories he has tasted, especially with his one assist and one goal in the game.
Subsequently what makes the Roma stalwart a special figure in the eyes of many is his undivided loyalty to his club. He has spurned the opportunity to move to other clubs such as Manchester United and Manchester City where, there is no doubt he could have won more silverware and receive a heftier pay cheque.
When quizzed on his loyalty, this is what he said:
It’s all about the matter of being a Roman. Sometimes on my couch I think, if I were not born in Rome, I would never be a Roma fan. I would never feel this sort of debt, this duty, to my fans, to my people, to my city.
For me, a good player, it could be easier for sure. But the other side of the coin is that I love to stay here. I love to make my people happy.
And surely after that magical night in Rome against Barca his debt has surely been repaid. As a neutral, watching the iconic Italian has been a privilege. His leadership and charisma in carrying Roma forward has been second to none especially after the huge gap left by Francesco Totti’s retirement.
In 2016, the midfielder displayed pure class rarely seen in today’s modern game when he buried his 2006 World Cup winners’ medal with the body of former Italy kitman, Pietro Lombardi. His gesture spoke volumes about his character as he gave his deceased friend the ultimate sending off.
At 34 years of age Roma fans realise De Rossi’s time is coming to an end. He once mentioned that his biggest regret was only having one career to give to the Giallorossi underlining his unbridled love for the colours of Roma.
Critics, however, will say that he wasn’t ambitious enough, choosing to stay at club which dwarfs in comparison to the skills he possess but then again, half of those clubs aren’t in the Champions League semi-final.
A perfect ending to this story line would be him hoisting the European cup though at the present moment that seems far-fetched. But then again its a Utopian dream. Against Liverpool, Roma supporters can be assured De Rossi will give his all to ensure the Utopian dream comes true.
Fans will no doubt witness blood, sweat and tears from this modern-day Roman gladiator and it is precisely for this quality that De Rossi deserves a huge thank you. For he has carried the team through the best and worst of times.
However, let’s just hope he can carry Roma all the way to European glory as this love story between club and player demands a happy ending.