COMBATIVE, a winner, and always up for a scrap, Daniele De Rossi is one of Italy’s finest modern day defensive midfielders.
Today, the 35-year-old Roma star announced he was leaving the club after 18-years of his service – appearing 615 times for I Giallorossi.
That’s an appearance record bettered by only one player – another Roma legend, Francesco Totti, who made 786 times for the club.
But unlike ‘The Golden Boy’, De Rossi never got the opportunity to lift a Serie A title, despite getting close on a number of occasions.
In fact, De Rossi and Roma finished runners-up in nine of the 17 seasons he played for the club, which surely gives him the title of football’s greatest nearly man.
Perhaps that’s unkind to a footballer who won the World Cup with his country in 2006…
You could say De Rossi was a little unfortunate to have played in an era dominated by Juventus, who won 11 Serie A titles (including one that was scratched off after a match-fixing scandal in 2006) during his career.
In the 2009-10 season, Roma finished just two points of Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan, who went on to win a treble, that included a Champions League triumph over Bayern Munich.
The championship wasn’t decided until the last day, where Inter had to travel to Siena and Roma were away at Chievo.
Almost up until the hour-mark, Roma fans believed that it was to be their day – as they were coasting to a 2-0 win.
Their hearts were broken in the 57th minute when Diego Milito scored for Inter, and Mourinho’s men never looked like conceding as they marched to the Scudetto.
It didn’t help that Inter had beaten Roma in the Coppa Italia final a week earlier 1-0 either.
The 2016-17 season provided Italian football fans with one of the tightest title races in years, with Juventus, Roma and Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli neck-and-neck in the final month of the season.
With the firepower of Edin Dzeko and Mo Salah, Roma scored 90 goals in the league that season – 13 more than eventual winners Juve.
However, it was a derby defeat to Lazio in late April that cost them dear – falling 3-1 at the Stadio Olimpico.
And despite beating the Old Lady 3-1 with two games left to play, a win inspired by De Rossi who scored and was booked that day, the Juventus machine continued its march and won Serie A by just four points.
A carbon copy of Gennaro Gattuso, De Rossi wasn’t afraid to put himself about like AC Milan’s former tough-tackling midfielder.
But his most famous sending off came quite early on in his career at the 2006 World Cup in a group round match against USA.
Aged just 22, De Rossi lashed out at former Fulham striker Brian McBride, catching the forward with an elbow which bloodied his face.
He was banned for four matches and fined around £8,000.
I’ve had quite a few red cards in my career and I must admit I pretty much always deserved them.”
Daniele De Rossi
“I’ve had quite a few red cards in my career and I must admit I pretty much always deserved them,” De Rossi told Il Calciatore in 2018.
“There are few that I felt harshly done by. Then again, it’s one thing to get sent off for a reaction foul, because there you’ve got at most a one per cent excuse.
“If you make a last-ditch tackle and are a little late for the second yellow…. No, to be fair, I deserved pretty much all of them.”
It’s also fitting that De Rossi has a tattoo that depicts what he’s best known for.
On his right calf, a drawing of one stickman aggressively slide-tackling another in a triangular caution sign sums the man up perfectly.
THERE’S BEEN SOME SUCCESS
After his 2006 World Cup red card shame, De Rossi came on as a sub in the final after 61 minutes, and their game against France went to extra-time and then penalties.
The youngest player in the Italian squad during that tournament, he showed his bottle stepping up to take the third penalty in the shootout as the Italians clinched their fourth World Cup.
At club level, it’s been more sparse. Consecutive Coppa Italia triumphs from 2006 aren’t fitting for a man of De Rossi’s talents.
Individually, however, he has been recognised over the years.
In 2006, De Rossi was voted Serie A Young Footballer of the Year, and three years later he followed that up by winning the senior title.
There was also a place for him in the Euro 2012 Team of the Tournament.
AN HONOURABLE MAN
While being a World Cup winner is probably his most impressive accolade, De Rossi wasn’t precious about his medal.
When Pietro Lombardi, the kit man for the Azzuri during their 2006 World Cup triumph passed away in 2016, De Rossi’s honour and class showed.
Attending his friends’ funeral, he placed his winners’ medal inside Lombardi’s coffin to show what he meant to him.
La Gazzetta dello Sport wrote at the time: “On Wednesday morning, De Rossi finished his training rather hurriedly and went off as if he had another important engagement.
“He went to Florence to attend the funeral of Pietro Lombardi, the former Italy kitman, who had passed away aged 92.
“He left training in the morning and put his World Cup winner’s medal in his pocket before driving to Florence. There, he greeted his friend for the final time and put his most valuable possession into the coffin.”
What a gent.
HE LEAVES ROME WITH SOME REGRET…
Two years ago, in an interview with Undici magazine, De Rossi, who is married to the English-born actress Sarah Felberbaum, said that he regrets not leaving Roma sooner to play in the Premier League or in Spain.
“My only regret about staying at Roma is that I never got to experience the atmosphere in other countries, such as in England or Spain, outside the stadiums,” he revealed.
“I would have liked to know how to live elsewhere.
“The other side is that my choice was very egotistical, because I needed to play for Roma. I get physical and emotional pleasure playing with this jersey on my back.
My only regret about staying at Roma is that I never got to experience the atmosphere in other countries, such as in England or Spain, outside the stadiums.”
“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.
latest football features
“It would have hurt me more than missing out on a Real Madrid-Barcelona experience, or playing in England’s most beautiful stadiums.
“At least that’s how I view it. At the age of 33, I have reached the calm realisation that I’m well aware I haven’t won or travelled that much.”
Now, with Roma believing De Rossi, is surplus to requirements maybe a move to the Premier League will finally come for the man they call Capitan Futoro.
This post written by Jonathan BOON originally appeared on Football news - transfers, fixtures, scores, pictures | The Sun. Read the full post here.