Daniele De Rossi: Roma’s great captain that never was

Jason Rodgers

In the eyes of many, Daniele De Rossi has been one of the most complete midfielders of his generation. A Roma icon, the Italian international has, despite his aggressive playing style, gone somewhat under the radar throughout his career.

112 caps for the Italian national team, fifth-highest of all-time, tells you everything you need to know about De Rossi’s legacy. Still only 33, the Rome-born anchorman made his professional debut with his hometown club in 2001 and has since made well over 500 appearances for the club he adores.

De Rossi initially joined the Roma youth system in 2000 as a striker, but was quickly converted into the tireless central midfielder we know today and soon was making his mark in the first team as an 18-year-old against Anderlecht in the Champions League.

The young midfielder quickly established himself as one of the most promising players in Serie A, helping Roma to a second place finish in the 2003/04 season and it was at the start of the following season that De Rossi earned his first international cap for Italy.

De Rossi had the potential to play a big role in Italy’s successful 2006 World Cup campaign, especially coming off the back of winning Young Player of the Season in Serie A.

However, De Rossi’s tournament turned into a bit of a disgrace. Whilst De Rossi’s famed aggression served him well in Italy’s first group game against Ghana, a 2-0 win, he shamed himself in the second game against the United States.

In just the 28th minute, De Rossi threw a mindless elbow to Brian McBride’s face, leaving the striker bloodied and needing stitches. The Italian was shown a straight red card and was banned for four games, but did show some class by personally seeking out McBride after the game to apologise.

De Rossi did return to the side, coming off the bench and scoring the third penalty in the World Cup Final against France, but no longer owns his winner’s medal. At the funeral of Italy’s former kitman, Pietro Lombardi, in March 2016, De Rossi left his medal in Lombardi’s coffin to commemorate the valuable role he played in Italy’s World Cup-winning success.

Perhaps it’s stories like these that help to explain why so many Roma players value De Rossi’s presence in the dressing rooms. His loyalty to the Italian club is honourable and his heart will always be with his hometown side. Mega clubs like Manchester United have often come calling with ridiculous salary offers but every time De Rossi has been unable to turn his back on the club that brought him through at the start of the 21st century.

“I needed to play for Roma. I get physical and emotional pleasure playing with this jersey on my back. The years when I was about to leave, I’d step on to the field with tears in my eyes. Looking around and thinking it might be my last match at the Olimpico… Those moments made me realise I couldn’t live without Roma.”

Daniele De Rossi

It can be argued that De Rossi’s legacy could have been even greater had he not been a one-club player. After all, other than his World Cup success, De Rossi has only won a couple of Coppa Italias and a Supercoppa Italia. For a player with such a complete set of attributes, this is definitely seen as an underachievement.

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The Italian warrior was given the nickname capitan futuro (“future captain”) by Roma fans early on in his career due to his leadership and dedication to the team. However, the incredible longevity of Francesco Totti means that De Rossi has never been the official club captain.

It is a similar story with the national team. Gianluigi Buffon has also defied his age by maintaining his status as one of the top goalkeepers in the world, meaning that De Rossi has only been named captain five times. In fact, in a 2013 interview, De Rossi made it clear that he was not a fan of the nickname…

“I was never crazy about the name and I think we should leave it be, as I am proud to be vice-captain of Roma.”

Daniele De Rossi

De Rossi’s future remains somewhat uncertain. His contract with Roma expires at the end of the season, and so far there have been no indications that this deal has been renewed. De Rossi has signalled that he may be interested in finishing his career in the MLS or in South America for a club like Boca Juniors, but it does appear as though the most likely scenario is for the Italian to sign for another year with his boyhood club.

SEE ALSO: The sad story of Italy’s brightest talent: Andrea Fortunato

Whether De Rossi will be able to fulfil his dreams and win Serie A for Roma next season remains to be seen, but regardless of that, he will forever be remembered in the hearts of I Giallorossi (“The Yellows and Reds”) as a hometown hero.

Do you believe that Daniele De Rossi is the complete midfielder? Has spending his career in Rome jeopardised his legacy? Let us know in the comments below! 

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