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Can Daniele De Rossi’s leadership take Roma to new European heights?


After 18 years at Roma, Daniele De Rossi has captained his side to a Champions League semi-final berth. Il Giallorossi’s legendary mediano has earned his right alongside Francesco Totti in the capital side’s and Italy’s football lore.

De Rossi spent three brief years as a youth player at Ostia Mare, a Serie D side also located in Rome. In 2000 he moved to Roma’s youth system, and soon became a mainstay in the team for years to come. Originally a striker in his youth years, De Rossi’s physicality and style of play made it clear that his future was in the midfield.

Before he really started to shine in Rome, De Rossi dazzled as a member of the Azzurri youth squads. He represented Italy as an under-19,20, and 21, winning the 2004 UEFA Under-21 Championship and finished third place in the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Admirable performances in 2006 earned De Rossi a call up to Marcello Lippi’s World Cup side in Germany. At only 22 years old, De Rossi was not only the youngest starter on the side, but the youngest member in the entire squad.

De Rossi’s place as a starter did not last long, however, as he received a straight red card in Italy’s second match versus the United States after he had elbowed American striker Brian McBride in the face. The incident left McBride bloodied and needing stitches, and resulted in a four match suspension and fine for De Rossi.

Italy’s miraculous run to the final spanned another four matches, which allowed De Rossi to return in time for the match versus Zinedine Zidane’s fearful French side. Lippi opted to employ the familiar faces he used throughout the knockout stages, but coincidentally De Rossi was substituted into the match for Totti in the second half. De Rossi performed admirably to send Italy into a penalty shootout after the Azzurri were not able to separate themselves in extra-time. The midfielder converted Italy’s third penalty, paving the way for Fabio Grosso’s shot that won the Azzurri their fourth World Cup title.

De Rossi went on to be named Serie A’s Young Footballer of the Year in 2006, and was an integral piece of Roma’s consecutive seasons winning the Coppa Italia in 2006-2007 and 2007-2008.

Italy entered the UEFA Euro 2008 Championship with high expectations after just recently winning the World Cup. De Rossi also had high expectations, as he was gifted the prestigious number 10 jersey after Totti’s international retirement following the World Cup. Italy fell to Spain in a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals, a match that ended Italy’s dominance and started Spain’s four year dynasty of European and world football domination.

The 2010 World Cup was a shameful performance by Italy, where they finished last in their group after failing to earn a single victory.

The Azzurri experienced a brief rejuvenation of some sorts in the UEFA Euro 2012 Championship, in large part due to De Rossi’s versatility. De Rossi was deployed as a center back in the opening matches due to an Andrea Barzagli injury, then slid back into the midfield for the knockout stages. He lead both a tight defense and midfield in a run that saw Italy make the final, only to fall to Spain once again.

Roma’s club campaigns during that time-span were not successful, as they failed to qualify for the Champions League. They worked their way up the table during the 2013-2014 season, after the hiring of Rudi García as manager.

Although attracting several offers from premier European clubs, De Rossi stayed loyal to il Giallorossi, a decision that boded well for the fans and the player himself. Roma continued a streak of making Champions League, but not quite competing for the league title due to the dominance of Juventus.

Nicknamed Capitan Futuro by Roma faithful, De Rossi finally earned the title of Roma’s official captain after Totti’s retirement following the 2016-2017 season. The promotion was well deserved, and De Rossi proved in the quarterfinals versus Barcelona that he has plenty left in the tank. It seemed as if Barcelona had a clear path to the semi-finals after their 4-1 trashing of Roma in the Camp Nou, but De Rossi put his own goal behind him and lead his team to a seemingly impossible comeback at the Stadio Olimpico. Besides keeping a compact midfield and shutting down four-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi, De Rossi exposed Barcelona’s defense with his passing ability. He assisted Edin Džeko’s early opening goal, and set up another pass to Džeko which earned a penalty and was converted by De Rossi himself.

Roma was expected to take a step down this season, especially after losing Mohammad Salah who had made the Romans look silly after scoring 39 goals for Liverpool this season to date. De Rossi’s leadership and grinta has seen Roma make their best Champions League run in years, one that has potential to be their greatest tournament in club history considering they’ve only made the final once before in 1984.

Il Giallorossi will find out who awaits them in the semi-finals on Friday, and have everything to play for. The squad’s determination and celebrations after the Barcelona game showed that they truly believe they have what it takes to rise victorious. By taking it one game at a time, De Rossi and company have the chance to lead Roma to new heights on the European stage.

@ItalianFD

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