Earlier this week, when discussing our number 10 U-23 prospect Alessio Riccardi, a born and bred Roman, we touched on the unique confluence of expectations, insecurities, anxiety and adulation that occurs whenever a local kid suits up for AS Roma. This phenomenon can either crush you or make you a hero; there isn't really room in the Roma psyche for an in between. And perhaps no player in recent memory personifies this peculiarity more than Alessandro Florenzi, Roma's now former captain,
While Florenzi was never expected to be as great as the two Romans who preceded him—Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi—the kid with the mop top and toothy grin was capable of some pretty spectacular moments on the pitch. From his bicycle kick against Genoa in 2014, to the time he burst into the stands to kiss his Nonna after scoring against Calgiari to his stunning midfield lob over Barcelona in the 2015 Champions League, Ale produced more than his fair share of holy shit moments.
Florenzi never really had a position to call his own, flitting back and forth between midfield and wide forward during his earliest days, but then came a decision that forever altered his career—and more importantly, altered people's perception of his career.
With Roma facing an injury crisis in the fall of 2014, not to mention their usual budgetary concerns, Florenzi, who by that point in his career had already flashed some positional versatility, was tabbed by Rudi Garcia as Roma's right-back of the present and future.
This change didn't seem earth shattering in the moment—in fact, we explained in detail why it wasn't as crazy as it sounded—but that one small tactical decision by a coach who would be sacked approximately 18 months later completely changed Florenzi's relationship with Roma fans, or should I say, their relationship with him.
At first, there really was no issue. Through the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons, Florenzi continued his shape-shifting ways, spending time at right-back, midfield and right-forward, scoring 12 league goals and providing seven assists in roughly 5,000 league minutes. While his versatility was still his calling card, he gradually became entrenched at right-back, spending roughly two-thirds of his match time there by the end of 2016.
And then came the injuries. With two ACL tears between October 2016 and February 2017, Florenzi's career was never quite the same. While he fought back valiantly to return to the pitch in the fall of 2017, the remainder of his Roma career was filled with controversy, practically splitting the fan-base in half, with his defenders hailing his versatility and commitment to the team (a/k/a his Romaness) while his critics claimed his sieve-like defense was dragging Roma down.
While we attempted to dive into the heart of that controversy, Florenzi could never quite shake the rap that he was receiving a pass because he was Roman, or that he was only lauded in the first place precisely because he was Roman. Like we always say, when a Roman suits up for this club, it’s just different.
So, why are we talking about all this? Why the emphasis on the past tense?
Alessandro Florenzi has joined Paris Saint-Germain on loan.— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) September 11, 2020
Good luck for this new adventure, Ale! #ASRoma
Moments ago the club announced that Florenzi, 29-years-old, is joining French mega-club PSG on a year-long loan. While the club didn’t provide financial details or elaborate on what happens come June 2021, rumor holds that PSG will pay €500,000 up front while retaining a €9 million option to buy, though that has yet to be confirmed.
Throughout this summer, the speculation was that Florenzi would either remain in Italy (with either Fiorentina or possibly Cagliari) or would join Carlo Ancelotti's ambitious Everton project in England. So, believe me when I tell you, Florenzi moving to Paris was perhaps the surprise of the summer transfer season.
If PSG choose not to exercise their option on Florenzi (though it is rumored he has a four-year deal in place with them), he may yet return to Roma, where his €3 million a year salary runs through 2023, but your feelings on this move likely fall into one of two camps.
Camp #1: You Love Florenzi
If you have fond feelings for Ale, you're likely thinking something like “What the hell? If one of the biggest and most powerful clubs in the world sees value in Florenzi, why doesn't Fonseca? What hell is wrong with him!?”
Your dismay will likely go stronger if, as rumor holds, PSG coach Thomas Tuchel immediately inserts Florenzi into his starting lineup for PSG's fixture against Marseilles on Sunday.
Camp #2: You Dislike Florenzi
If you fall into this camp, while you may not necessarily be happy to see Florenzi leave, you at least understand and appreciate the rationale. While they may not admit it openly, Roma are rebuilding and ditching a 29-year-old with his salary and injury history will go a long way towards helping Roma reset and rebuild.
No matter your opinion of this move, one of the stranger and more controversial careers in club history is coming to a close. However, if you can be objective about Florenzi...truly objective...then the real Florenzi begins to emerge.
He was a young, fringe prospect who put in his time with Crotone and then returned to his hometown club, doing whatever his parade of managers asked, delighting fans with his exuberance, his passion for the club and even the occasional golazo. He was seldom a world-beater and seldom the sole reason for Roma's struggles.
For a club with Roma's resources, Florenzi was an ideal plug-and-play player. When Zeman needed a sprightly winger to run onto Totti's through balls, he was there. When Garcia needed somebody...anybody...to play full-back, he was there. And when the time came for him to assume the captain’s armband, he was there, accepting the honor with the same grace, humility and passion as the Romans who came before him.
In eight seasons with his boyhood club, Florenzi has scaled some awfully high peaks and hit some crushing lows, but through it all he was a versatile and dutiful servant to Roma, playing as many as six positions for the club, fighting back from two catastrophic knee injuries and doing anything he could to lift Roma up.
So, even if you didn’t quite rate him as high as your fellow fans, I hope that you at least respected him for what he was: a decent footballer, one who always put Roma's needs first.
Guys with Totti's talent don't come around everyday, but Florenzi's commitment and sacrifice are equally unique in modern sport.
Bonne chance à paris, Ale!