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De Rossi: “An honor to be considered a symbol”

DDR offered some insight as he prepares for his 16th season in Roma.

AS Roma v Genoa CFC - Serie A Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

For the first time in his own historic Roma career, Daniele De Rossi is facing the prospect of playing without Francesco Totti, who “retired” this past season, leaving De Rossi as the leader of Roma in heart, body and soul. In an interview with Roma Radio, Roma’s newest captain offered some insight on his past, his present and the coming season, one in which he will face new challenges and a greater level of responsibility.

On his past and current fitness levels:

My first pre-season training camp was in 2001-02, straight after Roma won the Scudetto, so there was such enthusiasm

I’m proud to still be here and in good shape physically. I do think back and realise how ‘old’ I am in football terms. It makes you feel like rushing, as time is running out, so I tell the younger players to enjoy every minute and realise being a professional footballer is something unique.

Since he’s been here for so long, we tend to forget that De Rossi was not part of that 2001 Scudetto squad, missing out on Roma’s greatest glory by one season. However, that doesn’t make his advice any less sage; this club is awfully young and will need DDR’s leadership, so it’s nice to see him accept the role as grandfather of the squad.

On playing without Totti:

We are all in a way ‘widowers’ of our historic captain. I was largely the captain last season, because it was normal that Francesco didn’t play as much. Not much changes on the field, but it does change in that we’ve lost a symbol who brought people to the stadium.

It puts more responsibility on all our shoulders, for me in particular. It had to happen sooner or later, we are not eternal, even though Francesco seemed as if he might be.

It’s an honour to be considered a symbol of Roma now and I worked hard to become someone important for the fans. I never felt the pressure that much, but at the age of 34 I need to find a balance around my fiery passion for Roma, so the armband should help me in that respec

While we may never know just exactly how close Totti and De Rossi were, one look at DDR’s tear filled eyes during Totti’s “retirement” ceremony tells you all you need to know about how much Totti meant to De Rossi who is, if nothing else, an unabashed Roma fan.

So in that sense, the club’s spirit is in the absolute best hands—few among us love the club more than he does—and while his leadership style may be different, and his legacy not quite as grand as Totti’s, De Rossi is every bit the perfect steward for this club. We’ve talked about it intermittently over the years, but for some strange reason, De Rossi has always seemed more relatable and more real to me.

Where Totti’s legacy was borne out of pure magic, De Rossi’s feels more earned, like he trod a heavier path to greatness. That’s not meant to denigrate his skills, which are sublime, but they’re not quite as flashy or as apparent as Totti’s, which, to me, makes him more grounded. Totti is the Rhodes scholar that changes the world without even really trying, it’s just preternatural, where De Rossi is the self-made man who generates change through sheer force of will.

But I digress...

De Rossi on EDFs tactical approach:

It is strange to have him as my Coach, but the fact I know him is only a slight advantage. I am a player like all the others, we have to respect the Coach.

I’ve worked in the 4-3-3 system many times, probably more than with any other from Luciano Spalletti to Rudi Garcia. We’re working to assimilate his concepts, which are similar to those of Zdenek Zeman, which is great news when it comes to attacking.

In tactical terms, I feel almost unique. While my body held up, I was a universal midfielder who could score and then rush back to defend, then I became more central and I think it’s positive to play in a variety of roles.

Anyone who has been a desk jockey and suddenly found themselves answering to the jackass you used to eat lunch with can probably relate to what De Rossi is going through here. Transitioning from teammates to a player-coach relationship can be a tenuous process, but the gap in years between their playing days probably erases the awkwardness somewhat—this isn’t a Vincenzo Montella situation where one minute he’s your mate, the next your manager, but it is testament to DDRs longevity that he is, once again, playing for a former teammate.

But, seriously Daniele, you had to do that to us? You had to compare EDF to Zeman? I’m not sure my body is ready for another Zeman-like season, but at least Di Francesco won’t line up 10 men at the kickoff.

We’ll have more on the Totti to De Rossi legacy later this summer, but suffice it to say, the next few years will go a long way towards solidifying De Rossi’s legacy. If he can guide the club to his own Scudetto, he may yet approach Totti exalted status.