I hesitate to ever write on Daniele De Rossi. Not because of the man or symbol he is for Roma, but for his position on the field. Ever since the year Real Madrid stirred the silent protests of (then player) Zinedine Zidane by selling his mate Claude Makelele, defensive mids became the hipster’s choice for unsung heroes (or think N’Golo Kante at Leicester if you want a more recent chapter).
Does De Rossi deserve that kind of ‘unsung hero’ sentiment tagged anywhere near his name or career? I feel he’s been Roma’s most convincing captain since I’ve been a Roma fan. It’s never productive to compare, but if Totti was the captain I could watch playing all day into the evening, De Rossi is the one I could listen to all evening-long, over a beer, well into the next day. DDR ‘s melancholy is larger than life, meaning it’s just about containable in the large-scale melodrama of football.
Sometimes even football cannot contain him—as one blackout moment in a Genovese penalty box can attest to this 2017-18 season—but I think it’s enough to sum up De Rossi’s season by highlighting the heavy emotional commitment he took on last summer, finally stepping into the captain’s armband at the club some 15 years after his senior debut. “I have to thank Monchi,” De Rossi reflected to Roma TV, “because if I’m still here at Roma a big part of the credit goes to him. It was he imposing himself to get me to stay last summer, and I think I’ve proven him right since then.”
This past season started off worrying for DDR—not because he was playing badly, but because he was playing so much. With Gonalons looking ineffective, DDR wound up racking minutes at a rate never seen for some seven or eight years at the season’s start. By season’s end, DDR was actually making uncharacteristic noises we’d never heard from him in years. Tamed was the melancholy, replaced by a new-found enthusiasm to play for the club. The man was talking about enjoying his football with Roma. Was this really the same Daniele?
Maybe the heavy minutes last autumn began to tell on his performances around April and May, but between that tale are the stats and facts we like to draw on. Stats like Roma’s goal concession rate per 90 minutes; the Lupi were conceeding goals at nearly twice the rate whenever the captain wasn’t in the side to protect his defence (0.6 goals conceeded per 90 with De Rossi in the team, 1.1 goals conceeded per 90 without De Rossi).
De Rossi has also stayed loyal to the performance levels his position demands. He may have only racked up 22 league appearances and 33 in all competitions this season, but he’s the guy who runs the most when he does (10,987 km run on average per game from De Rossi this season - ahead of Maxime Gonalons, Aleksandar Kolarov, Kevin Strootman and Federico Fazio).
Finally, there’s the fact of Roma’s “dark winter” run - the one guy the team was missing throughout the entire month of January due to a niggling calf injury? Daniele De Rossi. I think we’ve got the picture.
We’ll let De Rossi tell the rest in the English transcript of his Roma TV interview below.
I was going to write the English transcript but this time it’s just a case of turning on the English closed captions in the Youtube vid, as the club’s channel has included subtitles in this one.