“I still have true love for the club, and I think it’ll continue in different forms. I won’t rule out that in the coming years, they’ll see me sneak in with a sandwich and a beer to cheer for my friends”.
Despite 18 seasons and over 600 appearances donning the shirt of AS Roma, Daniele De Rossi was always one thing before he was a footballer for the Italian capital club: he was a supporter. The Giallorossi and their captain held a joint press conference yesterday to announce that Danielino, as he is still lovingly called despite being 36 years of age, would be departing his boyhood club upon the expiration of his contract at the end of the season.
The departure of club legends is always a messy topic because there is no right way to go about it. To this day, Juventus still receive stick for the manner in which they handled their break-up with Alessandro Del Piero while Roma, who held a year-long farewell tour for him, still draw the ire of many supporters for the way they treated Totti during his farewell.
When it comes to players who are closely tied to the club and, especially, the city in which they play, clubs are almost always in a losing position. But one thing that a club can do to avoid severe backlash from its supporters is to be transparent and forthcoming about the potential departure of a club-icon, all of which Roma were not when it came to announcing the departure of De Rossi.
In what was one of his first press conferences as the new CEO, Guido Fienga stepped to the podium yesterday and looked entirely uncomfortable before even uttering a single word to the filled media room at the Centro Sportivo Fulvio Bernardini, he began, “We’ve called this Press conference to tell you that yesterday, I met Daniele to tell him the club’s decision not to renew his contract as a player. We talked for a long time and I expressed my willingness to keep him at the club, in a role to be decided.”
He continued, “Speaking on behalf of the club, I apologised to him that talks did not take place sooner. There were some off-field issues and we had several problems. All of this is a culmination of what’s happened this season. The club are aware of the mistakes they’ve made. There’s a lot of self-criticism going on right now”.
Informing Roma supporters that they will have only two final opportunities to see a club icon take the pitch wearing their shirt seems wildly irresponsible and simply gives credence to the belief that the Giallorossi’s hierarchy are simply over their heads, including the team’s American president James Pallotta.
The odd thing about this entire episode is that the club is likely making the correct decision. De Rossi is 36 years old and suffered, according to him, the most debilitating injury of his career earlier this season against Napoli. His legs are close to gone and he is nowhere near the player he was even a few seasons ago. But it goes to show that sometimes in life, it’s not about the decision you make, rather, what’s more important is the manner in which you handle said decision.
It’s likely De Rossi could give more to Roma for at least another season and seeing that the club are expected to undergo a massive overhaul from top to bottom from their sporting director down to their roster, De Rossi’s veteran presence and understanding of the Roman environment could have been an added bonus during a time of transition.
Many will debate whether De Rossi’s ability on the pitch was something Roma could use beyond this season, but there is no doubting everyone can agree on in this matter: the love story between Daniele De Rossi, his club, and the supporters deserved a much happier ending.
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