While we all understandably worship at the altar of Francesco Totti and stand in awe of Daniele De Rossi’s unrestrained love for the club, Alessandro Florenzi has carved out his own sphere of influence within the hearts and minds of Roma fans. No matter what lofty heights he may reach in his career, he will, in some ways, always be seen as the kid brother, Daniele and Francesco’s tagalong, their enthusiastic and foolhardy shadow. Make no mistake, we mean this as a compliment of the highest order.
Although he’s just 25-years-old, Florenzi’s place in club lore was cemented years ago. Through his versatility, his heart and his hustle, Ale has endeared himself to the fanbase like few players before him. At the beginning of his career, people weren’t quite sure what to make of Florenzi—was he a midfielder? a winger? a fullback in the making? was he big enough? fast enough?—but that was put to rest by Zdenek Zeman, and later Rudi Garcia, who deployed Florenzi in a host of attacking positions, where his off the ball intuition reaped numerous rewards for Roma.
Thanks to that baptism by fire, Florenzi became a fairly regular goal scorer and an indispensible part of the lineup; playing wherever and whenever, banging home both the routine and the rousing on his way to becoming one of the league’s more unique and most valuable assets.
Goals and statistics are all well and good, but Roma is so much more than fact and reason. The simultaneous sinking and soaring in the pit of your stomach is what drew you to this club, and no one speaks to that ethos quite like Alessandro Florenzi, a point never more clear than on September 21, 2014 when he did this:
While the goal itself was rather unremarkable, just a well placed shot low and away, what followed was unbridled, unplanned and unbelievable. Florenzi, in the heat of the moment, decided to celebrate the goal with one among thousands, his Nonna, who was (somewhat remarkably) marking her first match at the Olimpico—don’t forget, Florenzi is a Roman born and bred.
Here was our response in the moment. Kudos to Sam, no one captures the spirit of a match quite like our resident Australian:
From here Alessandro Florenzi bared down on it like a great white shark on a baby seal and nearly ripped the net open with a trademark first touch, right footed pile driver. Poetry, beauty, sheer tambourine waving ecstasy!
Florenzi immediately wheeled away and ran straight for the stands where he leapt up to where his 82 year old Nonna was sitting and gave her a great big hug and kiss. Who said romance in professional sport was dead?
This was Nonna’s first time at the Olimpico for her grandson’s game. And this is why Florenzi is such a crowd favourite. The kid has every reason to give himself a shit haircut and walk around the place like an arrogant fuckwit (ciao Balotelli e Pogba!) but he is better than that. He knows the fans of Roma because he still is one. This is a kid who appreciates every single bit of love thrown his way and is one who is willing to do whatever it takes to maintain his spot in the team that means so much to him.
I couldn’t have said it any better myself. He may not have Totti’s ethereal touch or De Rossi’s grinta, but Florenzi’s Romaness is just as apparent and equally essential to all that makes Roma tick.
And if you’re not certain why that matters, let me dig into the vault once more, this time all the way back to 2012, my rookie year.
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.
While this was in reference to De Rossi, it applies in equal measure to Alessandro Florenzi. There’s just something about this kid that sets him apart from any Roman to ever suit up for the club—yes, even Totti and De Rossi—but it’s so frustrating because it’s forever dancing on the tip of your tongue, escaping all conventions of grammar and prose.
You can’t explain why it matters when Roman’s rise to the fore with this club, nor can you explain why the smiles induced by Florenzi are just a bit more special than any other hometown hero, but the cascade of applause and the looks on peoples faces as Ale embraced his gramma says it all.
You don’t really get it and I can’t really explain, but Nonna....Nonna knows.