Wednesday December 14 2011
De Rossi – a future in defence?

Antonio Labbate on the possibility of permanently transforming Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi into a centre-back.

Roma boss Luis Enrique must be tempted to use Daniele De Rossi in that role again. He has to be after that performance. With just one centre-back at his disposal, the Spaniard was left with little option but to ask the central midfielder to drop into the back four with Juventus arriving at the Stadio Olimpico. What followed was a display that any true stopper would aspire to.

It would be premature to claim that Italian football has found, by chance no less, its next great central defender, but what if De Rossi’s performance on Monday night wasn’t a one off? It could have ramifications for his future at not just club level – whether he stays in Rome or not – but on the international stage too.

It’s no secret that the Olimpico outfit have had problems in that position this season. Gabriel Heinze has been adequate, but Simon Kjaer has been poor when fit and Juan looks nothing like the player which made him the club’s most reliable centre-back over recent years. Add to that the fact that Nicolas Burdisso is out for the season, while Marco Cassetti is really a full-back and Enrique has at last a justifiable tactical reason to use a midfielder in defence.

De Rossi, on all levels, looked like an accomplished defender in Rome during the 1-1 draw in which he actually gave his side the lead. He read the game as if he had studied it the night before, he tackled with his normal aggression and started offensive manoeuvres thanks to his qualities as a passer of the ball. If anything, playing deeper gave him more time to pick the right pass.

More importantly, though, was the admission that he enjoyed playing in the position which leaves the door open for his possible transformation from a midfielder into a defender at some stage in the future.

“I’ve never admitted it before, but I would like to play in the heart of the defence,” he told Roma Channel. “It’s a role which increases the responsibility on you because you can’t make any kind of mistake. I could become a centre-back and I’m always at the disposal of the Coach. I thought I did well and, to be honest, I really enjoyed it.”

Taking De Rossi out of the Roma midfield would clearly be a decision that would need pondering at great length, especially after his return to form this term in a new role created for him by the former Barcelona B boss. Yet Enrique tellingly has Fernando Gago in the squad, a player who could thrive in the place of De Rossi given the previously aired fears that the former Real Madrid man can’t co-exist in the same midfield as the Italian.

Of course, there are still massive question marks over whether De Rossi is really best suited to step back into defence. He was up against a Juventus front three on Monday that hardly inspired. They were so disappointing that Alessandro Matri, Marcelo Estigarribia and Simone Pepe were all replaced by boss Antonio Conte after the break.

One should also remember the cautionary tale of Alessio Tacchinardi, the Juve midfielder who was used as a centre-back by Marcello Lippi. His initial performances were so good that then Italy boss Arrigo Sacchi gave him his Azzurri debut in a back-four sandwiched in between right-back Ciro Ferrara and Milan stopper Alessandro Costacurta. With time, Tacchinardi was pushed back into his natural role.

Present Italy maestro Cesare Prandelli will undoubtedly have watched De Rossi’s performance against the Bianconeri with some interest. At a time when his best centre-back options are restricted to Juventus left-back Giorgio Chiellini, the recently recalled Andrea Barzagli, plus the inconsistent Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Ranocchia, the Roman could – theoretically at least – give him an unexpected option ahead of Euro 2012.

It’s an intriguing prospect, but one that is left very much in the ability of De Rossi and the tactical plans of under-pressure Roma Coach Enrique. It’ll ultimately be his decision whether he keeps faith with the old De Rossi or introduces us to a new version of the 28-year-old.

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Have your say...
Adam; you're an idiot.
Daniele has been a rock in the midfield this season. Just compare the result Roma have had with him in the team with those with him off it -- there's a major difference.
Besides Daniele lacks the aerial ability to become a great central defender. Sure his heading skills are impressive but he's not very tall, nor is he very springly.
on the 15th February, 2012 at 11:47pm
Where he belongs in defence.......again Ian what has he done from midfield since the game v Juve?? where are they in the table?
on the 15th February, 2012 at 2:27pm
DDR must loose some weight, seriously
on the 2nd January, 2012 at 6:00am
let LE choose what's best for DDR and Roma
on the 18th December, 2011 at 10:52am
Adam: I take it you haven't watched a single Roma match this year?
on the 16th December, 2011 at 8:05pm
Whatever position he plays I hope he either re-signs for Roma or joins Manchester United. He's one of my favourite players in the world.
on the 15th December, 2011 at 6:11pm
It's shame that he couldn't have became a trequartista like Antognoni or a box-to-box player like Matthaeus or Tardelli.

He has good skills on the ball and he is a hard tackler. If he can combine his defensive game and ball skills and even score from defence, he could be an Italian Ronald Koeman or Daniel Passarella! He may have only played one game in that position but it could be to Roma's benefit if the points keep coming.
on the 15th December, 2011 at 12:27pm
Yeah play him there why not?? what is it he has done from the midfield the last few seasons?? how many goals or assists does he have compared to say Xavi or Pirlo?? remind me what he does from Midfield..I was in Rome last year and watched Roma v Brescia at the olympico... He like the others did not affect the fact the best player was Eder on the other side...I think he just loves to show off his tattoos bit like a look at me im a roman I can walk around the pitch and do nothing.
on the 15th December, 2011 at 9:36am
It's easier to find good DC than midfielder like DDR.

The best option for the team is to have DDR in the midfield and other good defender it the back.

DDR skills are to valuable to waste him in the central defense. He is so complete player he can do good all over the pitch not only in the back.
on the 15th December, 2011 at 8:27am
DeRossi can play anywhere! He's a Roman God! Probly do well as goalkeeper too lol..
on the 15th December, 2011 at 7:07am
Dare I say that he has been played out of his best position all of his career till now? De Rossi would be a fine central defender. A fantastic performance against Juve. In the Rome derby, he filled in there, and despite the loss, he was rock solid. De Rossi just does not have the creativity needed for the "water-carrier" role in the midfield. Plays a good pass when needed to, but his consistency in CB is unrivalled. More, more, more!!
on the 14th December, 2011 at 11:25pm
No sense in moving him back right now when he has the legs to carry the midfield for another 3-4 years. However after that when he has become too old for the midfield we know where he will be playing. At CB he can captain the team until his late 30s.
on the 14th December, 2011 at 7:09pm
He's done it before too. Anyhow why jump the gun? The man is at his best when he make those bombing runs up the midfield and the fact that he's been used as a holding midfielder is stopping him from doing that. In spite of that he's been one of the best players this seasons. Thats just how good this man is. Forza DDR and Forza Roma!
on the 14th December, 2011 at 4:51pm
I think now, the Gago and DDR co-existing fears are long gone, the idea is if you shift DDR to a CB the Roma midfield won't be having fun, maybe if Viviani becomes an accomplished midfielder (Which I expect to happen soon) then yes. But for now Roma has many CB(s) and less midfielders. He'll always be a viable option that he can switch positions, but he shouldn't be use permanently at CB.
on the 14th December, 2011 at 3:18pm
Why not DDR has potential to be a total footballing machine. He has ability & plays with his heart on his sleeve - a rare animal in modern day football. Would love him at Spurs.
on the 14th December, 2011 at 1:41pm
I wouldn't get too carried away just yet, considering that Matri was left isolated on his own for long periods before he was taken off. Worryingly, this is creeping into Juve's recent patterns of play and doesn't bode well for Matri, who will of course become the scapegoat when/if the wheels begin to come off after winter break. After De Rossi has played as a centre half against a good team that use two centre forwards, then a more accurate assessment of his suitability for the role can be made
on the 14th December, 2011 at 10:28am

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