By Kris Voakes
Around the streets of Rome he remains ‘Il Capitan Futuro’. The would-be successor to Francesco Totti as skipper, icon and all-round hero at Roma, Daniele De Rossi has long been expected to don the prestigious armband until the day he retires from football. But as he edges towards his 30th birthday later this month, the midfielder now faces a make or break moment in his career.
While his performances in the national shirt continue to improve, his club form has been notably lacking over the last three or four years. Once the driving force of the Roma side, he too often comes across as a passenger these days, to the point that many Romanisti watching Italy games at the recent Confederations Cup will have been forgiven for wondering who the outstanding midfielder wearing De Rossi’s usual No.16 was.
There was a time when the Roma youth product revelled in the responsibility of being the club’s next great hope after Totti. As his stature within the club grew, so too did his confidence. But times have changed so much that the powers-that-be at Trigoria are seriously considering selling him for the first time ever.
It is not as if he is a player who has simply peaked early. Sure, his personal problems away from the field – including the killing of his father-in-law and messy collapse of his marriage – have rocked him back, but he has somehow been liberated by the opportunity wear the Italy shirt. Drawn away from the strife he has suffered in the capital, he has been the old De Rossi when playing for his country, not least over the past three weeks in Brazil.
|DE ROSSI AT ROMA
Mourinho has long been an admirer of the barnstorming displays of which De Rossi is capable and is a clear believer that he can help to bring him out of his considerable funk at club level. Having based his first incarnation of Chelsea around Michael Essien and given Xabi Alonso a similar responsibility in Madrid, the Portuguese is in need of a player of a similar ilk to lead his new generation at the Bridge.
Chelsea will also feel that at this point they can pick him up on the cheap, thanks to both his drop in club form and the fact he becomes a 30-something before the new season begins. De Rossi still has four years to run on his contract in the eternal city, but the lure of a sensible sum from Roman Abramovich’s supply could well be enough to part Roma and their once-instrumental midfield maestro.
Such a transfer may well provide a result that all three parties can be happy with. De Rossi seemingly needs to get his head straight outside of Rome, while the Giallorossi could use the cash to help finance the new Rudi Garcia era at the Olimpico. Chelsea, meanwhile, would be in the best position to profit. With John Obi Mikel set for Galatasaray having never quite fulfilled the potential once seen in him, the Blues need a driving force in midfield in the exact mould of De Rossi.
It may well be true that he has missed his best chance to move abroad and earn the greatest of riches in the game, but while his sense of loyalty at the time was admirable, this may be the last opportunity De Rossi will get to spread his wings. With each underwhelming season in Rome comes the increasing realisation that he may be missing out on something bigger and better, and Chelsea may be the best place for him to excel once more for club as he does for country.