While yesterday’s official repulsion from the 2018 World Cup was a scar on the face of Italian football, the wound, it turns out, extends far below the surface. With former Azzurri players, fans, media and pundits all around the world calling for reforms and demanding Giampiero Ventura’s head on a spike, another loss was sort of swept under the rug amidst all that haranguing.
Gianluigi Buffon was and is the heart and soul of the Italian National Team. From his miraculous saves to his quite and calm leadership to that one time he grew a moustache, Gigi was an ideal spokesman for the Azzurri, exuding class, quality and dignity through it all. And while his loss will loom large, for our red and yellow hearts, there’s one absence that resonates even deeper, the retirement of our beloved Daniele De Rossi.
DDR has always been the unspoken will that propelled Roma forward through all the controversies and calamities that befall the capital club. He may not have had Francesco Totti’s ethereal skill set, but the passion, the love, the rage, that stirred inside him was immeasurable. You can’t put your finger on it, but you know that Roma would be immeasurably different without.
And for the past 13 years, De Rossi brought that same provincial passion to the Azzurri, willing his countryman to greater heights in virtually every corner of the globe, and now, thanks to Ventura’s incompetence, that journey ended yesterday, with a limp scoreless draw at the San Siro, one in which De Rossi seemingly had a firmer grip on tactics sitting on the bench than Ventura did “managing” the team.
It was long expected that Russia 2018 would be De Rossi’s swan song with the Azzurri, but after yesterday’s disgrace, he’s decided to bow out immediately rather than gutting it out through Euro 2020.
Now the next generation is ready to take flight and we must begin again from them. It was almost an absurd moment to associate with a football match. There was a funereal atmosphere in the locker room, yet nobody died.
I’ve been wandering around Coverciano and all over the world with this jersey for over a decade, so to take it off for the last time is a strange feeling
Source: Football Italia
A strange feeling indeed. De Rossi, much like Totti before him, remained with Roma out of a pure love for the club and city, enduring managerial change after managerial change while watching his national teammates achieve domestic glory with the likes of Juventus, Inter and Real Madrid, among others. But when he threw on that blue shirt, De Rossi was truly surrounded by men worthy of his own talents, and in many instances, De Rossi was among the best Italy had to offer.
While the ending wasn’t befitting of the man himself, that doesn’t tarnish his legacy one iota. DDR retires as the fourth most capped player in Italian history, trailing only Gigi, Fabio Cannavaro and Paolo Maldini, making him the most enduring non-defensive player in Italy’s storied history. What’s more, De Rossi’s 21 goals in an Azzurri shirt are the most by a midfielder in Italy’s Post-War history. And it fitting De Rossi fashion, he has the most red cards in over 100 years of Azzurri play. Bravo, Danielino. Bravo!
The entire Italian peninsula may be in mourning right now, and while Buffon’s tears were the most poetic, the site of De Rossi, apoplectic with rage, screaming at the management staff during the second half is the embodiment of that sickness, that remorse and vitriol you felt yesterday watching Sweden celebrate.
Daniele De Rossi may not be the most decorated man in the history of Italian football, nor was he its most skilled, but he is the pride, passion and grinta of the Azzurri personified.
We may have to wait five more years for Italy to make the World Cup, but it may be a lifetime before we see another De Rossi.