Daniele De Rossi admits he was tempted to leave Roma last summer, but “love won out” even with the “excessive pressure” on the new captain.
The midfielder spent his entire career with his hometown club and has inherited the captain’s armband from retired Francesco Totti, but his bond was very nearly broken.
“I think I’m a balanced person. Every now and then, I ruined that image by going overboard on the field, but now I am able to control myself better. It’d be frankly worrying if I couldn’t at the age of 34,” he told the Corriere dello Sport.
“Some consider me a wise old man of Italian football, but that’s probably because I don’t talk very much. The more you say, the more likely you are to say something stupid.
“I understand that the people want to see a Roman captain, someone who wears the armband not because of the number of games he played here, but for his deep love for club and city.
“It’s difficult to win at Rome because there are more powerful clubs economically, with more history behind them, and winning helps you to win. Juventus dominated in these years because of their financial power and the stadium, but also the way they dealt with the personnel at their disposal.
“They shook off the image of the previous administration, which was winning, but also had some huge stains (in the Calciopoli scandal). It’s practically impossible to overtake them now, but we’ve never given up and never will.
“Over the years I’ve realised the pressure around Roman clubs is not as decisive as I used to think. Of course, the radio stations and extreme passions in the city can go over the limit and I think it has become damaging.
“In the past, a Romanista would always defend another Romanista or another player, even if he was the worst. It was a family, we were all united as Romanisti and therefore different to everyone else. Now people are divided so easily by anything, there is a tendency to create chaos and controversy. Nobody accepts they got it wrong.
“Perhaps it’s also the era of social networks that made people so fixed on their own ideas. Everything you say is written down and searched for and shown back to you.
“Having said all of that, I still believe we can win in such a complex environment. I don’t want and am not looking for excuses.”
De Rossi was asked if he will end his career at Roma.
“I don’t know. I always thought it’d be great if I could, with all due respect and the correct proportions, experience a day like the one Totti had on May 28 when he retired. It’d be wonderful to experience such an intense salute with the fans. I don’t know when and I don’t know how.
“At the same time, I do feel the strong desire to have an experience elsewhere. Frankly, 16 years at Roma is like 32 elsewhere, because they really weigh on you and are a tough slog. Thank God, I am physically having the best seasons of my career, but the pressure is often excessive here.
“I think I would, and ought to, have an experience elsewhere. I had already decided to do it last year, as for long periods there was no contact with the club over my renewal.
“It wasn’t too bad in my view: I was playing well, so would leave a happy memory. For a while, it was my plan to leave. The biggest offer on the table was from another Italian club (believed to be Inter, ndr).
“However, my heart and love won out: I couldn’t betray the city and the fans. If a big European or American club had come in – and it’s no secret one of my dreams is to go to America for a lifestyle and football experience – I probably wouldn’t be here today.”