If Roma hoped their opening round trip to the Stadio Armando Picchi to face Livorno would divert from the Erik Lamela saga, they were wrong. The Argentine’s likely move to Tottenham has dominated headlines and his name continued to do so as they visited the Tuscan coast. This time talk revolved around Lamela’s non-inclusion in the starting XI. It comes at the end of a summer noted for unrest and protests. Roma needed a positive start and feel good story to ease tension. Thanks to Daniele De Rossi, the Lupi got both.
Rudi Garcia commenced with three points and the performance of his star midfielder will be most pleasing. In their player ratings, La Gazzetta dello Sport asked if the Italian international really is a problem for Roma. De Rossi looked the player of old as he pulled the strings.
He chimed in, critically, with the opening goal just past the hour mark. And what a goal it was too, a rocket from distance that flew into the corner. It ended a personal club drought for De Rossi, who last scored 469 days earlier, on May 13 2012 against Cesena. Perhaps it closed what was a difficult spell for the player.
De Rossi downplayed its significance: “Scoring goals has never been my priority. I’ve always scored four or five a season, last year went badly in this regard.”
The 30-year-old experienced a frustrating time under Zdenek Zeman and never truly sparkled under Aurelio Andreazzoli, his first act to reinstate De Rossi in the line-up. The Czech was mixed in his messages concerning the player, who was clearly unsettled. Zeman opted for Panagiotis Tachtsidis in the centre of the midfield. He did not see De Rossi as the player to control a midfield trident. It is not an opinion the player shared.
Exacerbating the situation were the constant transfer rumours. When it comes to De Rossi, they never quite go away. Roma are said to want rid of his €6m a year wage burden. Chelsea and Manchester City have been linked with the player.
While looking unsettled at Trigoria, the Tuscan air of Coverciano and the Azzurri shirt offered relief. Under Cesare Prandelli, De Rossi played his best football during the past year. He is a key component of Prandelli’s side. Whether in midfield or defence – he was recently fielded as a marking defender in the friendly against Argentina, while also previously appearing as a spare defender – there is a place for De Rossi.
He admits Roma are a step behind the main contenders, and thinks the problem is psychological. “We are not missing that much at Roma, but we are lacking a little. What we really need is enthusiasm. We need to put a winning run of games together and start to believe in ourselves again.”
Perhaps the first sign of belief surfaced in Livorno. Three minutes after De Rossi’s rocket, Alessandro Florenzi doubled the advantage. De Rossi offered a release from the nerves and Roma took advantage. Now they’ll aim to do that on a bigger scale, starting this weekend against Milan’s vanquishers, Verona.
For his boss, De Rossi is a ‘symbol of Roma’. He was one of the players Garcia identified at his unveiling that he was eager to work with, along with Francesco Totti, of course. “Totti and De Rossi are elements who will be important on and off the pitch. I have a great desire to meet De Rossi, as I do the rest of the squad. De Rossi can play in a lot of roles, just give me the time to get to know him.”
Any thoughts of leaving appear to be quashed, replaced with a desire to help Roma progress. After conquering Livorno, De Rossi spoke of Trigoria as his second home, the people there his family. And while positive of Garcia, made note there’s a sense of déjà vu. “Garcia? He gives a precise identity, but we had that last year and with Luis Enrique.” He went on to add the Frenchman seems a good mix of the two.
De Rossi may be slightly guarded, but there were initial signs he will flourish with Roma again. We must take into account the opposition were newly promoted and are relegation candidates. But a De Rossi playing with fire in his belly can only be positive for the Giallorossi.