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A De Rossi Discussion: Should Roma Bring Him Back?

Danielino’s contract is expiring this summer, but is a new contract in the works?

Roma v Cagliari Photo by New Press/Getty Images

With the winter transfer window done and dusted, Roma’s pitiful display against Sampdoria firmly in the past and yesterday’s narrow victory over Cesena officially in the books, I thought we’d jump the gun a bit and look forward to the summer. While we’ll undoubtedly devote thousands of words to the summer transfer season, no transfer, real or imagined, looms quite as large as Daniele De Rossi’s expiring contract.

De Rossi, who turns 34 this summer, is about to be out of a contract for the first time in several years. After signing a five year extension in the winter of 2012, one which eventually made him the highest paid player in the league, DDR faces a bit of an uncertain future: will he remain with Roma or hop over the Atlantic and ply his trade in the MLS?

The answer will come in due time of course, but that didn’t stop me from taking the temperature of the room, so to speak...

#1 De Rossi sort of gets lost in the historical fray, before we delve into the debate, give us your favorite DDR memory.

Bren: When I think of Daniele De Rossi, no singular goal or tackle comes to mind, just the pure exuberance with which he celebrates all of Roma’s accomplishments big and small, and in that light, nothing was better than his reaction to Luca Toni’s goal against Inter in March of 2010. With Toni streaking towards the fans, De Rossi was doing manic chin ups on the crossbar, raving like a lunatic.

ASRCanes: When he elbowed Brian McBride in the face…

All kidding aside, Bren’s memory is definitely up there for me, as well as DDR making the third/go ahead PK in the 2006 World Cup Final shootout, at the young age of 23. Quite the impressive feat.

AsRemus: I loved it when DDR used to take long range shots. This one was a gem.

Thomas: De Rossi’s highlight reel pales in comparison to Totti’s (duh) so picking a single goal or tackle is difficult. However, I can’t remember a single time I ever saw him play without passion, that’s why there’s something to be said about his breaking McBride’s face in 2006 and his subsequent apology, a gesture McBride praised as “classy.” This (the elbow) was Daniele Di Rossi at his most DDR, bringing a ferocious zeal to the game bordering on mania.

JonAS: I fully agree with Bren, never saw a grown-up, rough, bearded man release his inner child as fast as Dani did that moment. And that’s exactly what the fans love: Players who are as passionate as themselves. Next to that, numerous goal celebrations with guys like Mexes, Montella, Totti, Perrotta, Florenzi and Radja.

Kevin: Same as Bren’s. Loved that match, and that goal. It feels like that’s the last time the Stadio Olimpico was full. Damn barriers.

Sam: Watching him score the winning penalty against Genoa at the Olimpico in April 2008 and then celebrate with the entire stadio. Epic. Full disclosure, I own two Roma jerseys with his name on them.

#2 In February of 2012, De Rossi signed a five year contract extension, making him the highest paid player in the league. What was your assessment of the deal at the time, and what do you make of it now?

Bren: I don’t think they had any other choice. He was only 28-years-old and at the peak of his powers, and with everyone from Chelsea to Manchester City offering well over €10 million per season, Roma had to pony up and make DDR the highest paid Italian in the league--I think Zlatan was still number one overall. It’s hard to say if he’s lived up to that billing given all the managerial upheaval over the past five years, but no way they would have accomplished anything without him these past five seasons. It was a lifetime achievement contract in way; paying him more than he was really worth simply because of all he had done up to that point. I’d do it again ten times out of ten.

ASRCanes: It was what was needed at the time. There were offers from everywhere, and he was playing extremely well. We did not know if Totti would last this long, so there was a romantic aspect to the extension as well. With so much changing within the club and the culture surrounding it, AS Roma needed to make sure they had a Roman to keep things together. It was the right move then and it’s hard to second guess it now.

AsRemus: I have to agree. De Rossi was one of the best holding midfielders at the time and his ties to the city undoubtedly made the signing mandatory. Despite his occasional lapse of judgement and his declining speed (he was never quick to begin with), DDR still shows flashes of defensive brilliance. I can’t picture Roma without him.

Thomas: Remember where Roma were when he signed that contract? They were an ambitious team being flooded with young talent. Signing De Rossi, who was in his prime, to such a lucrative and long contract was perfect. It showed the world that Roma were serious about building a team that was meant to challenge for the Scudetto and in Europe. It also ensured that those younger players would have a leader who exemplified the culture and identity of Roma.

JonAS: While I think money isn’t everything for Dani, it was simply the smartest thing AS Roma could do. You perform, you get paid a lot. Not only in football but in the business world in general. It was also a signal to him: “You’re goddamn important to us, son. Stay as long as you want, we need you.” Besides, Dani always gives 100% for the shirt, but also has a family to take care of. It’s not like I would reject such a sum if I were in his position.

Kevin: At the time it was the right move in my opinion, but times have changed, and DDR probably shouldn’t be one of the highest paid players in the league anymore. But nobody could’ve possibly predicted that at the time. While the club might’ve conceivably tried to restructure his contract since then, I don’t blame DDR for taking the extra money, as he’s sacrificed so much for Roma. Plus, like Latrell Sprewell, he has kids to feed.

Sam: I remember this really well. I was back in Rome and at the stadium in January right in the middle of the window when all the offers from England were coming in. That day he put on an absolute clinic against Chievo and received a standing ovation when he was subbed off in the last 5mins. My memories of the LE years are more or less DDR bailing out Roma time and time again, he was incredible. Make no mistake, he gave up the same opportunities for championships and glory that Totti did to stay with an underachieving Roma team. He earned every cent in that contract.

#3 Now that we’ve gotten the nostalgia and revisionist history out of the way, give us a frank assessment of 2017 Daniele De Rossi--how has he fared this season?

ASRCanes: He’s been the typical DDR. One week he has a flawless performance, the next he’s visibly subpar. Stroot and Ninja have definitely overshadowed him with their impressive play of late, however, for a 33 year old CDM, he’s been solid.

AsRemus: The subtleties of his position cannot be overlooked. His movement, vision, and physicality lend to both defense and attack. His eye for a cutting through-ball rather than a back pass makes him irreplaceable for Roma. Even this season DDR has served the team well, although certain lapses have led to costly goals--the Higuain goal comes to mind. Oy vey, that missed tackle…

Thomas: He has been playing with as much tenacity as ever but his effectiveness is more sporadic than in years past which leads me to think that he physically cannot contribute like he used to.

JonAS: I’ve seen him play a lot of long balls this season, like a pro. And when Spalletti used the 3-4-2-1, Dani suddenly felt more confident and secure at the back and decided to push up the pitch more and more, with a lot of quick and smooth passing. Almost Xavi-esque. I liked that Dani, although at the age of 33, he can’t do it 90 minutes and twice a week. Yet class is eternal, as he has proven again this season. Radja’s clearly been the pillar of our midfield since he joined us, but Dani still has a big say when he’s out there.

Kevin: Meh. He’s had his moments, but also shown his age. Red card against Porto in the Champions League Playoff though? Classic DDR right there.

Sam: Classic DDR has been his marshalling of the defence and his ability to distribute the ball efficiently through the midfield. He has had one or two poor games but for the most part has easily been one of our better players this year. Roma is a lesser team without him. Focusing on the red card as his major contribution this season is absurd.

Bren: What’s impressed me most has been his play from deep. De Rossi is averaging 21m per pass, which is among the league leaders amongst midfielders and he’s completing about 85% of his passes overall, which isn’t too far off his career pace. So while he’s not the maniac he once was, he’s every bit as instrumental to Roma’s midfield. I’d just kill for a 25-yard-screamer from De Rossi, just to see him charging into the stands, his beard blowing in the wind, spittle flying from his lips.

#4 Play devil’s advocate for a second, give us a reason or two why they should cut ties with De Rossi.

ASRCanes: There’s no reason for them to actively want to cut ties with him. He’s still a more than serviceable player who is the heart and soul of the club. I would keep offering extensions alla Totti; if you can prove your worth on the pitch, we’ll keep you. However, if he will not take a pay cut, then I would cut ties.

AsRemus: De Rossi just doesn’t have the legs anymore. His position is so demanding on the body that it would make sense for management to look for younger alternatives (no easy task). To continue paying his high salary throughout his waning years would be a huge mistake. That said, if he was willing to take a pay cut then it would be wise to keep him for his experience.

Thomas: It depends on what he’s asking for; if he refuses to take a pay-cut and contract negotiations become acrimonious then it’s time for him to go. I would be surprised if it came to this though. It would be a PR nightmare for the board and, from what I can tell, DDR is an honorable man. Would he really throw a fit and storm out of Rome over money especially at this point in his career?

JonAS: His (w)age(s). Imagine Kessie comes, or Paredes starts to finally kick into gear. Combined with Radja, Kevin and Florenzi. And maybe Pellegrini coming back. Then a 33-year-old with flashes of brilliance isn’t really a certainty anymore. And if he just sits there on the bench, his wages suddenly ‘damage’ the club. MLS or China could be tempted to lure him in, and even vastly overpay for him, like Tevez or Pirlo. Can he withstand the dollar/yen?

Kevin: His high wages, and the fact that he might be delaying the rise of Paredes. #SaveLeo

Sam: No, don’t be a dick.

Bren: Hey, I said devil’s advocate. The only argument I can make is the old ‘ better to let a guy go a year too early than a year too late’, so as much as it would pain me to see him in MLS, that’s the only plausible scenario I can envisage. Even if, as Jonas suggests, he is supplanted by Paredes, Kessie or whomever, he’d still be a tremendous asset as a reserve.

#5 Okay, back to reality: what sort of deal should they offer him?

ASRCanes: In an ideal world, here’s what I would offer. Two year extension. Option to add third year following completion of the first year. Salary breakdown: 3.5 mil for first season. If option is triggered, last two seasons pay at 2.5-3 mil. If third year option is turned down, it would then be his final season, and they pay him 2 mil and send him off to the USA or wherever.

Thomas: I like the two year/third year option contract idea but I don’t think it should cost so much. Offer him €2 million per year… or maybe I would make a terrible agent.

AsRemus: Yikes, I am no expert when it comes to the monetary aspects of the game, but I imagine he’d have to take a substantial pay cut. Honestly, he probably only has one, maybe two years, left to play at a high level. Low-ball him at 2-2.5m on a two-year contract.

JonAS: Dani’s 34 this Summer. He can give at least 2 more good years, maybe in a new role (CB). So 2019 it is. I’d try to cut his wages a bit though, his best years are obviously behind him and he knows this too. But he’s still better than 80% of Roma’s transfer targets these days.

Kevin: I would love to see him move back to CB for a few years before he retires. And that would justify paying him what he’ll probably want in negotiations.

Sam: Two years seems about right.

Bren: Yeah, I’ll fall in line: two years with an option for a third seems reasonable, while I’d probably go no higher than €3.5 million per year….easy for us to say, right?

#6 Finally, forecast the rest of De Rossi’s career--what’s his role? Does he change positions? Will he shave?

ASRCanes: In Totti’s current super-sub role, but the amount of playing time will make sense (Totti deserves more than what he is getting, where as these “garbage minutes” make more sense for someone in DDR’s position). Basically, the late match reinforcement in midfield or in the back line. Someone who can boss around the pitch to close out a match in the dying minutes. I see him staying in Rome. He’s gonna knock his wife up again and stay home. MLS isn’t intense enough for him.

Thomas: Since he is adept in either a defensive midfield role or in the center of defense, both positions which don’t require a whole lot of running, he should be effective for a few more years. If he can’t go a full 90 minutes week in and week out than he should either play the big ones (Lazio, Juventus, Inter, and meaningful European matches) or come on as a second half sub when Roma is leading. As for the beard, I say keep growing that thing and then do some funky shit like braid it with beads. He’d look like psychotic pirate!

AsRemus: Next season will be his last in Rome. Dude is going to the states to play for NYC FC where he will shatter the league record for red cards in a season. Perhaps he will become a centerback when his legs finally give. As for the beard, he will shave it, revealing a chin tattoo of Remus and Romulus suckling the wolf mother.

JonAS: Oh he will shave himself… But not his beard. I can see him getting a good 20-25 games a season until 2019, all competitions. There will be better, younger options on the team, but he’s simply too popular to give away to a second tier division like MLS or China. Plus, it makes Totti’s retirement less hurtful if at least Dani stays. Losing both in one Summer, that would really make me depressed.

Kevin: See answer to question five. And no, I think he continues with the Viking look, as it strikes fear into the hearts of our opponents.

Sam: Keep him right where he is. The man deserves at least one season post Totti as the spiritual leader of the club. I agree he can be used as a CB in a back 3 but for the moment he is still doing his job well at the base of the midfield. I simply won’t entertain the thought of him in the MLS, 2016/17 has been rough enough.

Bren: I think two more years in his current role, though with some tapered off minutes in the 2018-2019 season, after that, if he’s willing, I think switching to central defense could push his career towards 37 or 38 years old, if he’s willing. He’s smart enough, strong enough and has the touch to pull a Maldini and play until he’s damn near 40. It’s all up to him, but suffice it to say, much like Totti, he’s earned to right to dictate the end of his career.

So, that’s our say. What do you think? Is bringing De Rossi back a no-brainer, or does Roma have reason to pause?