Part 3: de Rossi far too close to Roma exit
De Rossi, the boy, wasn’t destined to play for Roma (even if his father, Alberto, still coaches the club’s youth team). He got there by determination and belief. “I wasn’t one of those boys, aged 10 or 11, that you see on YouTube who play keepie-uppie with oranges, I wasn’t convinced that I was good enough to make it at the levels, which I then reached,” he admitted.
But make it he did. De Rossi fought for it because he wanted it. Talking to Il Messaggero four years ago, he left no doubt as to why. It was out of love for the club. “If it were down to me, I’d sign for Roma for life, even until 2030,” he said. That outlook has softened. He admits there are more important things in life like being close to Gaia, the daughter he is separated from after the collapse of his first marriage. But De Rossi also insists that, as of yet, she isn’t the sole reason why he has remained at Roma.
“Up until now, no,” he told Paolo Bonolis on the TV program Il Senso della Vita in April. “I haven’t stayed because my daughter is here. It would be romantic to say that, but in reality it’s because first of all I am a fan of this team. Sure, if I were to leave it would be far [away], while now it takes me 15 minutes to see her.”
What’s clear is that as a father, a fan and a footballer, De Rossi is tied to Rome. “For some months I have lived alone in Campo de’ Fiori, right on the piazza,” he revealed to Rolling Stone magazine. “I wanted to try the experience of living in the center and it’s unforgettable; the smell of the market, the guys at the stalls, the bakers. No one bothers you. No one gets in your way. Then of course it’s normal that they look at me like I would as a boy seeing a footballer come to live next door.”
That’s actually how many Romans do see De Rossi. He is the boy next door, a person they can relate to who speaks their language. If he were to leave home, he’d be deeply missed.
While Italy celebrated the Epiphany last week, Romans were hoping for one in relation to De Rossi. According to some, it may have finally come in the form of a photograph showing one of Roma’s new majority shareholders, the influential James Pallotta, on a visit from the United States to Italy, shaking a smiling De Rossi’s hand, as Baldini looked on during a training session at Trigoria.
Did it indicate that some sort of agreement had been reached? Or was it nothing more than a polite welcome? When asked that question on the Roma Channel, a jovial Pallotta, who apparently jumped into the training ground swimming pool fully dressed during his stay to show the team they must have no fear, joked with the reporter, “Well, I think I got De Rossi signed ...”
As of yet, there has been no official confirmation, but to the hopelessly optimistic it sounded like he was having the last laugh on the matter. If so, one thing’s for certain: There’ll be smiles all round at Roma.