With such a rich history and colorful fan base, it's no stretch to call A.S. Roma an extended family. In this instance, the family is considering having a yard sale. You know that piano that's been with the family for years but no one seems to know how to properly tune it or whether it looks better in the foyer or the family room?
That's Daniele De Rossi.
His value is obvious, so much so that you would be forgiven if you sold the piano to pay down the family debt. Sure, you'd lose a precious family heirloom, but you have a more than suitable baby grand out in the garage. Although it won't shine or sing like the Steinway, it has four legs, a stool and produces a decent timbre.
This admittedly flimsy analogy represents the dilemma in which Roma currently find themselves. Daniele De Rossi holds a lot of value, financial, tactical and emotional, to Roma, so the reasons to hang onto him are plentiful, if not always rational. But, and this is a big but, there are a couple of huge suitors eager for his signature and Roma doesn't always operate in the black, so cash is always welcome.
There are currently two camps in this debate: To Sell or Not to Sell, there's even a dash of conspiracy theory thrown in the mix.
So without further ado, lets delve deeper into The De Rossi Dilemma
Not To Sell:
Otherwise known as the Keep De Rossi camp. The KDRs have two really strong, really emotional arguments.
Point Number One:
He's Roman, plain and simple. If you don't understand why that matters, then you are missing a crucial element, and some would say benefit, of being a Roma fan. The emotional bond between the club and its fans, particularly in the 21st century, is what sets it apart from the ever-corporatized face of the sport. Part of it rests with the clubs embodiment of the city: its history, its colors, its passions and its people, which is precisely why born and bred Romans like De Rossi mean so much to the fans-they're the personification of that intangible, unspoken romance that is Rome. He represents, in style and substance and without even uttering a word, all the reasons Romans consider themselves a cut above the rest. You can't really explain why the location of his birth matters; you just know that it does....a lot.
Point Number Two:
He's good. While not the debutant he was 12 years ago, De Rossi, at 29 years old, still has quite a bit of football ahead of him. While we don't know if he'll have a 20+ years at one club career like Ryan Giggs and fellow Roman, Francesco Totti, he still figures to be a relevant player through much of this decade.
Despite some nagging injuries here and there, he's been fairly consistent, tallying 288 appearances for the Giallorossi, a lock for 30+ games virtually every season since he established himself as a first team player, no small feat considering his manic style. Those nearly 300 appearances include time spent in virtually all manner of midfield roles and even a few spot appearances at center back; he's probably driven the team bus and done a few loads of laundry too.
While never relied upon for goals, his 33 Serie A goals is a respectable total, especially considering the variety of roles he's assumed under a litany of managers since becoming a Roma regular. Had he ignored the defensive aspect of the game, that total would've surely risen much higher.
His role under Zeman, a much debated issue best saved for its own website, has surely impacted his performance and ratings this year-to the point where he is not even, by some metrics, a top ten squad player. But, for a variety of reasons, his performances with the Azzurri have been marginally better, signaling a player still at the top of his game. In his last 11 appearances for the Azzurri, De Rossi has three goals and one assist and has generally been his old self; highly involved in the passing game, willing to shoot from distance, and clinical in his ability to disrupt opposing offenses.
De Rossi's exact contributions are hard to quantify, as his versatility has always made his role, and its subsequent statistical analysis, somewhat ambiguous. That being said, there can be little doubt that when DDR is on top of his game, he is a nearly unparalleled talent.
Not exactly an easy commodity to part with, but arguments can and will be made.
Sell, Sell, Sell:
For the sake of symmetry, The Sell De Rossi's (SDRs) argument will follow the same form as the KDRs.
Point Number One:
Age: De Rossi will mark his third decade on this Earth in July, which is fine for insurance brokers or Sous Chefs, but for athletes, even well-conditioned, resplendently bearded ones, it's not a cause for celebration.
At this point, you're probably thinking "Wait, didn't you just say he still had a lot of years left?" Valid point, but the more important question to ask would be, "what sort of years will they be?" With the prevailing notion that an athlete's peak years rest between ages 26-28, we may have already seen the best DDR has to offer. Again, that's not to say he will suddenly fall off a cliff and become just another warm body, but we may never see the De Rossi of the late ‘00s again.
But, if you believe that his performances with the Azzurri in 2012 are more indicative (for whatever tactical or psychological reason) of his true talents, then the hesitation to sell is obvious; he can still be a dynamic and productive player.
So, the salient point in this argument is simple: is it better to sell a player a year too early or a year too late? Do you take the hit on the field now for an immediate windfall, or do you squeeze every last drop of production out of him now, accepting less on the transfer market in a year or so?
Bringing us to...
Point Number Two:
I'll give you roughly 37,000,000 reasons why people might want to sell our dear De Rossi. With the likes of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain beckoning, DDR's price point might remain around €37M. Unless other parties get involved, that number could get interesting. Both clubs, managed by Italians familiar with what DDR brings, could enter into a minor bidding war, driving the price upwards, or the lack of a bona fide market with multiple suitors might see the price deflate.
Whatever the case may be, the influx of €30M, give or take, is just what the club, in the absence of Champions League money, desperately needs, especially if the rumors of budget shortfalls bandied about this summer have any validity. There's also the simple matter of his salary, which accounts for approximately 17% of Roma's wage bill.
It's just as simple as that, money talks. No one even remotely associated with the club is stupid enough to sell Totti, parting with Erik Lamela now would be foolish on multiple levels, football and financially speaking, making De Rossi the most viable, valuable and moveable piece.
€30+ million Euros cures a lot of ills.
The Management Perspective
When I say management, I mean the boys upstairs. We still don't know the extent to which they are driven by the bottom line or if they enjoy the psychic benefits of sports ownership, so at this point, it's hard to predict how they'll react when someone lays a fat stack of pastel colored cash at their feet. If it's the former, all those Euros will be hard to decline, especially for a battle hardened 29 year old midfielder most likely past his prime.
But, the management has played a role in all this mess. Leandro Greco, you know, the marginal squad player formerly employed by Roma, went all grassy knoll on us, suggesting a conspiracy was afoot, saying "They have been able to change the mentality of the people, as until a few months ago the fans would've been ready to march through the streets to defend him."
While it's a bit of a stretch to suggest, or even intimate, that the higher ups are deliberately besmirching DDRs legacy, the timing of his (hopefully) temporary decline and the increase in the City and PSG rumors may prove to be fortuitous.
What is interesting, however, is the role the club's current personnel played during the managerial interview process this summer. Surely, the nature of the squad, who would play where, who's going out, who's coming in etc. was discussed with Zeman, first and foremost, one would imagine, would've been Totti and De Rossi. So one could assume they might have anticipated this outcome.
While Francesco has flourished this term, DDR has struggled mightily (by his standards) under Zeman. Throughout his managerial stops, Zeman has been renowned for his unrelenting belief and dedication to his vision, so if there was even a shred of a doubt how a player as crucial and unique as De Rossi would be implemented, the onus for the current quagmire is on the owners, not on Zeman or De Rossi themselves.
The argument about the degree to which either ZZ or DDR should adapt is for another post, but when the role of such an integral player is in question, it would behoove you to weigh all eventualities before making a decision. Zeman is a fine manager and De Rossi is a fine player, but if DDR means as much to the club as they profess, why would you invite a situation in which his performance, his confidence, and his standing with the club could even be in jeopardy?
I'm not saying this is how it unfolded over the summer, nor am I saying ZZ is not the man for the job, it just strikes me as odd that a player as important as De Rossi has had such an uncertain role, and even a place, in the team and that the front office couldn't have foretold this, given the unique nature of Zeman and De Rossi themselves. Surely, some of the waters have been muddied by the ambivalent roles for Miralem Pjanic, Michael Bradley and pretty much all of the midfield as well, but you probably were aware of that already.
Ultimately, if this paradigm, be it real or imagined, was to be avoided, the responsibility rests at the feet of the front office.
So do they take the quick cash fix, painting De Rossi as entitled and over the hill, or do they weather the storm and hope De Rossi and Zeman can find their way?
For my two bits, as enticing as 30+ million might be, Roma wouldn't be Roma without this tattooed lumberjack tearing shit up in the midfield.
Besides, if the windfall from a sale simply goes to the balance sheet, do the fans really see a benefit?
It's an unenviable position for all involved, one which, if the losses continue to mount, shows no signs of relenting.