Well, I must confess this is quite unusual for me. In all these years at Church I have been critical of players and strict with some coaches at Roma, penning my frustrations or disappointments after every game. But this is the first time I’ll talk about someone, a former Giallorosso, who has passed away. It really puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? Aren’t we all perhaps a bit too serious about football and all things Roma related?
It’s mainly a hobby in the end. Sometimes a nervous one yes, but also many times beautiful and heavenly. It sucks if we are defeated and we literally feel sick about it. But there’s always tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. There are far more important things in life. Family, friends, our work, our pets...
Do we really mean all those uh, well, mean opinions and rants about our players? Dzeko when he misses another clear-cut chance. Florenzi after he fails an interception. Strootman when he’s again invisible for a while. After all, they’re just people like you and me. Humans of flesh and blood, humans that have feelings too. Davide Astori, he was one of them. Was, unfortunately.
It’s a bit strange to dedicate an entire post about Astori, a guy who was only one season at Roma and was limited to about 30 appearances that same season. No diva like Vucinic or Borriello. No head case like Mexes or Cassano. No figure like Simplicio or Adriano. Just a simple, normal guy in giallo e rosso. You would almost forget that he once played for AS Roma.
Yet, I too felt obligated to put something up to honor Davide. The whole of Italy was shocked by his death and there was a huge wave of condolences and tributes all around the footballing world. Colleagues, trainers, ... everyone praised Davide. He was a good man and his death felt so unfair.
To start with a probably harsh but fair statement: Astori wasn’t world-class material. He was a very decent, talented defender, but no Chiellini, Bonucci, Nesta or Cannavaro. Yet, he made a name of himself at Cagliari where he was an ever-present between 2009 and 2014. He also featured regularly for the Azzurri in that period so he was certainly no amateur or unskilled player. In the Summer of 2014 Roma was the first big club to welcome Astori in its ranks. They agreed a one-year-loan with Cagliari, including an option to make it permanent in June 2015.
Unfortunately for Davide that option was never an, uh, option (well damn, that’s the second time already this post). Manolas was the first choice in defense while Astori and Mapou (yeah, remember that guy?) shared minutes next to the Greek. Eventually Mapou managed five or some games more in Serie A and will always be hailed for his derby goal. Still, Astori was one of the best third-choice CB’s in a long time at Roma.
Truth be told, the defense back then wasn’t Roma’s pride and glory. Balzaretti and Castan were broken men. Maicon was having a mediocre season compared to his standout 2013-2014. Torosidis and Holebas were both ‘meh’ and don’t get me started on Cole or Spolli. I wonder how Astori would have functioned in our current defense. Or next to a Benatia, healthy Castan or an older Manolas. It’s a shame he went to Roma in 2014 and for example not 2013 (Garcia’s first season) or 2016 (Spalletti’s return). Maybe then he would have stayed a little bit longer?
His sole season at Roma wasn’t a failure, nor a success. Roma ended second in Serie A, albeit a boulevard behind Juve and also managed to advance to the Europa League after the Winter, ending third in its CL group. Ironically, Astori’s future club, Fiorentina, would eliminate Roma in both the Europa League and Coppa Italia later on. Once again a trophy-less year in Rome and Davide quietly left Roma through the backdoor, paving the way for guys like Rudiger, Digne and Gyomber.
Only after his Roman career Astori got the recognition he deserved with the Viola, one of the most beautiful sides in Italy, next to Roma of course. In three years time Astori was made captain of the team and he was once again a certainty in the heart of the defense, just like at Cagliari. Under coach Sousa Fiorentina enjoyed a good spell in 2015-2016 while the club regressed a bit in 2017. Astori was still going strong though and rarely missed a minute of Serie A action this season until...
Until that fateful March 5th happened. Davide was found dead in his hotel room in Udine, where Fiorentina had to play its 27th Serie A game. Cause: cardiac arrest. A natural cause, which is quite exceptional for a 31-year-old professional athlete. Life can be cruel. Fiorentina apparently prolonged his contract and will donate his salary to his family. His shirt number, 13, will also be retired. A small ray of sun behind a huge, dark cloud but it helps to ease the pain and sadness among tifosi and friends.
Personally, I’ll always be grateful for his 0-1 winner against Udinese in January, the little jokes I could make about the ‘Manolastori’ combination (I’m not a comical genius) and how a lovely person he was during his time at Roma. We really need more people like Davide in this world so it’s a sad thing that we are deprived of this great personality and human.