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Celebrating 40 Years of Roma Legend Daniele De Rossi

We're a day late, but we'll take any excuse to celebrate Daniele De Rossi's birthday—Daniele De Forty, anyone?

Daniele De Rossi leaves AS Roma after 18 years Photo by Massimo Insabato/Archivio Massimo Insabato/Mondadori via Getty Images

Time flies.

It's already been four years since we waved goodbye to our beloved captain Daniele De Rossi and almost 22 years since he made his professional debut in the Giallorosso colors.

Launched to stardom by another AS Roma legend, Fabio Capello, De Rossi made his debut back in October 2001 (Facebook, what's that? TikTok, is that a special menu at KFC? Messi, did you just spell 'messy' wrong? Boy, I hope they only make one The Fast & the Furious movie). A lot has happened since then. We're still not rid of Vin Diesel yet.

Back in October 2001, I wasn't a huge fan of AS Roma. It wasn't until the 2002-2003 season that I started following them. However, I have always supported the Italian national team, especially with stars like Totti, Maldini, Nesta, Cannavaro, Panucci, Buffon, Conte, Baggio, Inzaghi, and Del Piero. Once I realized that Totti was the captain of AS Roma, I became interested in the most popular team from Italy's capital.

Daniele was just a kid back then; little did I know he would become such a club legend with more than 600 appearances and a place in the hall of fame alongside Totti, Conti, Losi, Aldair, Giannini, Pruzzo, and many others. That young bulldog in midfield would go on and play 18 seasons for AS Roma. That was half of his lifetime when he retired in 2019.

Likened to players such as Di Biagio, Gerrard, and Roy Keane, De Rossi had it all. Strength, tackling, vision, a good shot, stamina, hard-working, leadership but most of all: passion. Passion and love for the city, the fans, the club. Something truly priceless and unique. You can buy any player you want, but you can't buy that sort of commitment. In Dani's case, he's born with it, nurtured with it. It's in Daniele's blood. Just like Totti, Daniele's bond with Rome goes far beyond football. Rome is his life.

By 2004 DDR was already a vital team member, and under Francesco's guidance, he was hailed our Capitano Futuro. The chosen one who one day would inherit the Bandiera from his holiness Francesco Totti. However, he would have to wait a very long time to do so. In 2017 after Francesco's retirement and age 34, Daniele finally became our true Capitano. No more Capitano Futuro. It felt like a crowning, the conclusion of a great Roman career.

A lot has already been said and written about Daniele at Roma. He was exceptional—one of a kind. But even after all this time, I'm still mad/sad that he hasn't won anything particularly big during his Roman career. A Scudetto or European trophy, for example. Yes, there are two Coppe Italia and a Supercoppa, and of course, he was a World Cup winner in 2006. But he never got to lift the ultimate prize for so many young Romans out there: a Scudetto, just like his mentor Totti did in 2001.

Daniele came close to it: he finished runner-up in Serie A nine times. Just imagine how many trophies De Rossi (and Totti, for that matter) would have won with a bit of luck. Better refereeing, two or three extra quality players, and fewer injuries in the old burial ground of Trigoria—It is what it is. Still, it would have made his legacy even bigger.

Although Daniele won the league title with Boca Juniors in 2020, it's best to overlook his (half) season with the Argentinian team. He only played there as a favor to his friend Nico Burdisso, who was their sporting director. In Daniele's heart and mind, his career truly ended in Rome in May 2019, and everything else was simply a bonus.

I was lucky to watch him live in action once, back in 2016, during a 3-0 Chievo win. A midfield of DDR, Pjanic, and Radja. A sunny Sunday afternoon in Rome. Pizza and wine afterward to celebrate the win. Ah, good times.

It feels like just yesterday that a young De Rossi, with pimples and no tattoos, would step onto the pitch. Along the way, we've seen him mature from a boy into a man, becoming an icon of Rome. He grew a beard, changed his hairstyle, switched his shirt number from 27 to the now legendary 16, and even got some tattoos. He also started a family and had kids. It's strange to think that I feel like I grew up with De Rossi, even though he lives 1500km away from my home.

That 'boy' De Rossi just turned 40 made me realize times are changing fast. Very fast. While you must always keep going forward in life, it's not forbidden to look back at the past occasionally. Sometimes I miss the romance of those good old Roma days. It sure feels different now. Florenzi, Pellegrini, they just don't reach the same heights for me. New kid, Bove? Perhaps but I doubt it. Time will tell.

Hold on, am I being too nostalgic here? Maybe I'm getting a bit old myself, just like Daniele.

Time flies.

Thanks for the memories, Daniele. Grazie, Capitano Futuro.