Francesco Totti notwithstanding, historically speaking, Roma's best players have always been midfielders. Whether we're talking about Agostino Di Bartolomei, Giuseppe Giannini, Carlo Ancelotti or even Simone Perrotta, Roma has always made her money in the midfield. Whether the men currently manning the middle of the park will ever reach that same exalted status remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that between Kevin Strootman, Radja Nainggolan, Miralem Pjanic and Daniele De Rossi, Roma's midfield is as stacked as any in the league.
However, with the ascension of Pjanic and Nainggolan in recent seasons, and with prospects like Leandro Paredes and Salih Uçan desperate to make their mark, the battle for playing time in the midfield is sure to be ferocious over the next several seasons. And while De Rossi is an unquestioned club legend, whether it's due to the parade of managers over the past few years, or simply the mileage he's accrued from being the midfield lynchpin for club and country, DDR's performance has fluctuated the past several seasons, leading many to call for a reduced role for Roma's battle hardened midfielder.
Over the next couple of seasons, De Rossi figures to occupy an interesting realm: he may no longer be spry enough to keep Strootman or Nainggolan out of the starting lineup, yet he's far too talented to relegate to the bench. Furthermore, given the place he holds in Roman lore—he is the rage, the clenched fist and the beating heart of this club— pushing him aside is no small matter.
So, what's Roma to do?
Glad you asked because that's the next topic of discussion in the CDT Think tank, should Roma consider moving De Rossi to centerback, if not now, then perhaps in the near future?
De Rossi is big enough and strong enough to survive life on the backline and has, dating back as far as 2011, fulfilled the role for club and country. Under Luis Enrique, DDR was deployed as the centerback in a 3-4-3 to much success, perhaps leading Cesare Prandelli to recreate that experiment during Euro 2012 no less. The clip below is from the final, where DDR was nominally a midfielder--though he did start as a CB against Spain in the group stages--but you can see how much work he did in Italy's final third, which was the genesis of this debate.
So, think tankers, consider the following in your discussion:
- Can De Rossi hack it as a full-time defender?
- Is this an appropriate use of his skills, or is DDR the part time midfielder still more valuable?
- For that matter, could he even displace any of Roma's current centerbacks?
- Would this, in anyway, impact his legacy with the club?
De Rossi will never be held in quite the same esteem as Francesco Totti, simply because what Totti does is so ethereal and beyond compare, but De Rossi's workmanlike intensity and lack of flash makes him eminently relatable to the average fan. DDR isn't the fastest, the strongest or the most skilled, but he willed himself into being a world-class midfielder for nearly a decade, traits which endeared him to the fanbase like no other player in Roman history. Given his performance on the pitch, his loyalty to the club and to the city, any tangible threat to his legacy is sure to draw the ire of Roma's most intense fans.
So, what do we think. Can this ever happen? Will it ever happen? Should it ever happen?