Part 2: de Rossi far too close to Roma exit
It must be said there are mitigating circumstances here. This has been a year of almost unprecedented upheaval at the club. The takeover by the American Thomas Di Benedetto and his investors took longer to close than anticipated, and the financial situation they inherited required greater consideration and resources than first expected.
Then there was a new board to assemble, a new structure to put in place with new directors like Baldini, Walter Sabatini and Claudio Fenucci, a new Barcelona-influenced philosophy to implement through a new coach (Enrique), and a host of new players to find to suit the style of soccer he wanted to play. At the time priorities lay elsewhere. There were teething problems to overcome on and off the pitch.
Even so, does all this excuse Roma’s lack of urgency on the De Rossi front? Not necessarily, no. But is it understandable? Yes.
What perhaps wasn’t foreseen after a couple of indifferent seasons in giallorosso was how De Rossi would re-emerge not only as one of the best central midfielders in the world but also the cornerstone of Enrique’s Roma: re-inventing himself as a Sergi Busquets-like holder-cum-deep-lying playmaker; dropping between the centrer-backs when the full-backs surge forward; collecting the ball from the goalkeeper and starting moves.
Sure, Totti is by no means peripheral, but make no mistake about it - De Rossi is literally and figuratively more central to how this team plays today. He, more than anyone else, has taken Roma’s new script and given outstanding performance after outstanding performance. Only Juventus’s regista Andrea Pirlo has attempted more passes in Serie A this season (1211 to 1187), yet it’s De Rossi who has the better completion rate (88.4% to 85.5%). This is why Roberto Mancini described him as “the perfect man to improve Manchester City” in a chat with La Gazzetta dello Sport on December 30.
One has been more accurate, the other more prolific. Any way you look at it, Andrea Pirlo and Daniele de Rossi have led the way amongst Italy's midfield generals.
|Player||Club||Passes /Game||Pass %|
|Daniele de Rossi||ROM||69.8||88.4%|
|Mark van Bommel||MIL||64.1||89.1%|
Mancini has made no secret of his admiration for the World Cup winner, but he is also under no illusion as to how difficult it will be to persuade the player to tear himself away from the club he loves and grew up supporting. Why would he join Manchester City? The case is easy to make. At 28, De Rossi is perhaps aware that, as he approaches his peak as a player, his earning potential is never likely to be as high again. This could be the last big contract of his career, he is in a position of strength, and no one pays better than City.
But this isn’t necessarily about money. As Baldini suggested to Il Corriere dello Sport, any claims that Roma don’t have a lira to rub together are “absurd.” The club’s “requirements are covered for the next three years,” and with some creative accounting De Rossi’s demands can be met. “There is a difference,” Roma’s finance director Claudio Fenucci admitted to La Gazzetta dello Sport on December 1. “We’re certainly not at the final details. We are thinking about adjusting our offers in such a way as to make the first years of the contract more in line with our budget.”
The issue here, however, is whether Roma can match De Rossi’s ambition. City offer the chance to challenge for big trophies now. After finishing runners’ up in four of the last six years in Serie A, Roma are at the end of a cycle and have started rebuilding. It will take time for them to be competitive again. De Rossi has lifted the Coppa Italia twice and the Italian Super Cup once. That’s a relatively small return on 373 games of service.
Of course, It all depends on what one classifies as success. It can be deeply subjective, as Miguel Delaney wrote in this brilliant article.
José Mourinho also touched upon this theme when he was trying to convince Zlatan Ibrahimovic to stay at Inter in 2009. “Winning a Champions League with Inter or with Barcelona has a completely different taste. I told Ibra: ‘If Barça win it again it won’t be because you arrived, but because they are a team that has already been built to win for years.”
AS Roma players (left-to-right) Francesco Totti, Emerson, Daniele de Rossi, and Antonio Cassano jump while defending a free kick from Reggina's Gonzalo Martinez. De Rossi was 20 years old. (Photo credit: Paolo Cocco/Getty Images).
Likewise if City were to win the Premier League with De Rossi in the team, it wouldn’t be because he arrived. People wouldn’t identify him with that success. He’d be just another component in an expensively assembled machine. At Roma, the conquest of a Scudetto would mean so much more: It would be to realize the impossible dream lurking inside every football fan – that of one day leading the team they support to glory.
Baldini has to make that argument. Still, he’s in a dilemma. There’s no real winner if Roma and De Rossi part company – except City, that is, should he join them. It’s lose-lose. For Roma’s new ‘foreign’ owners, it would be a PR disaster and possibly do irreparable damage to their relationship with the supporters barely a year after they assumed control of the club. At the very least, they’d be accused of showing a lack of understanding and cultural sensitivity. For De Rossi, he’d possibly forsake the adoration of his hometown, unless he did good by Roma and signed a short-term one-year renewal with a buy-out clause that would at least see the club claim something rather than nothing for his signature.
When it comes to his decision, the realist in De Rossi might pick City on professional grounds. The romantic? Well, there’s really no contest.