Deciphering Daniele De Rossi

by Stuart Harper

Daniele De Rossi has finally and formally rebutted some of European football’s most storied suitors, committing to AS Roma on a long-term contract following a lengthy period of uncertainty.

Roma, the club De Rossi supported and served as ball-boy before ascending to the playing ranks, received the news with understandable euphoria, but this a development that has gravitas and is much more than a simple good news story.

De Rossi’s future had been riddled with doubt. Despite ‘Giallorosso’ literally coursing through his veins, (his father, Alberto, is a former player and Roma’s current Primavera coach), there have been question marks over a potential move away with just months remaining on his existing contract.

Personal difficulties had tainted life in Rome for De Rossi. Divorce and a mafia-style slaying of his father-in-law casting a long shadow over what should have been ‘la dolce vita’ for a Roman playing in Rome. On the pitch, ill discipline, including a propensity to brandish an elbow, blighted his career; earning the scorn of Roma’s tifosi and indeed Italy’s national coach, Cesare Prandelli. For a time, the man dubbed as Roma’s ‘capitano futuro‘ looked destined to follow Mario Balotelli in seeking solace away from the peninsula.

Conveniently, both Manchester clubs have long been admirers of De Rossi and his breathless brand of midfield dominance. Unerring combativeness, vision and deft creativity a rare and highly attractive combination. It is believed that De Rossi spoke at least with Manchester City prior to renewing with Roma, and only a prevailing ambivalence towards Serie A football in England could have kept this development from grabbing more mainstream column inches.

Ultimately, De Rossi shunned City, and the many trappings to accompany a ‘Bosman’ deal, and this aspect alone should serve as a mighty fillip for Roma’s new regime, who in 2011, became the first ever Serie A club to fall into non-Italian ownership. Bostonian Thomas Di Benedetto lead an American consortium to usurp the Sensi family who had presided over Roma for almost two decades. And in this resultant state of flux, doubt surrounded the future of Roma’s old guard such as De Rossi and Totti as an influx of imported talent descended on Rome.

Under Rosella Sensi, Roma’s last ower,  the club existed amidst a fair amount of chaos, but amongst all this, Sensi nonetheless offered Francesco Totti unremitting supporting and maybe too much power than was good for any player to enjoy. ‘New Roma’ however sought out Fabio Capello’s former lieutenant Franco Baldini to help mastermind a metamorphosis from perennial underachievers to earnest scudetto chasers, and in doing so, sought to address internal imbalance within the club.

From the outset, Baldini was vocal in downplaying Totti’s influence and it soon became clear that his Roma would be built on meritocratic principles rather than revolving around the whim of one protagonist – a sea change that would affect De Rossi?

Such were Daniele De Rossi’s credentials, the apparent certainty of him inheriting Totti’s mantle meant that he was afforded the monicker, ‘capitano futuro’. But with he future of Roma’s captaincy likely to represent a stark contrast to the past, it was conceivable that De Rossi could fail to be enamored by all that would accompany the armband, certainly if he envisaged and desired a level of influence enjoyed by Totti throughout the Sensi years.

However, regardless of all peripheral issues, the politics, polemics and private grief have all seemingly been reconciled to Manchester’s detriment and Roma’s gain, and given the raft of reasons to divorce himself from Rome, De Rossi’s action speaks volumes for the legitimacy of Roma’s American dream.

Predictably, the speed and scale of change within Trigoria, Roma’s training base, has taken time to meld into something fluid and functional. Results ebbed and flowed while the fan’s patience has been somewhat tested – and in some cases, exhausted – a consummately easy feat considering the weight of expectation bought about ambitious new owners and Luis Enrique, the manager with both Barcelona and Real Madrid in his DNA.

But by some strange quirk of fate, last Sunday saw Roma’s promise come to fruition with a demolition of Inter Milan 4-0, and fittingly, shortly after the tie Roma formally announced that De Rossi was to remain a Roma player with a lucrative 5-year contract.

Crushing Inter aside, Daniele’s contract renewal serves to embellish Roma’s brave new footballing direction. Furthermore, the message this sends to tifosi cannot be underestimated. On occasions, this season has witnessed disillusioned fans attend training sessions and even airports to voice their disapproval after questionable performances. So, if the prodigal son, a native Roman, has rubber-stamped the direction being chartered by primarily non-Italians, (Baldini aside), it speaks volumes.

In Rome, the crowd is not only the twelfth man, but the fulcrum by which success or failure can hinge such is the extent to which fan’s ire can destabilise clubs within Serie A.

Clearly, Roma face an exciting, albeit bumpy future under the stewardship of Luis Enrique and Franco Baldini. Barcelona like ball-playing principles expedited by technicians such as Erik Lamela, Miralem Pjanic and Bojan Krcic suggests the curva sud faithful will have much to relish.  And in Daniele De Rossi, Roma retain the important and intrinsic link between the city and the pitch, while retaining a much needed iron fist to fit within their silk glove.

Yes, Roma’s revolution may take time to realise its true promise, but the noises emanating from Rome are unreservedly positive and this is an unfolding story which is well worth watching.

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