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He was supposed to be the man to lead the side once Francesco Totti's career was over, but his latest offence should see a parting of the ways for the sake of both club and player

Kris Voakes

With the latest thrust of his right elbow which floored Bari’s Simone Bentivoglio and earned him an eighth career red card, Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi last night highlighted his rapid fall from grace. No longer is he the man marked out as the future of Italian football, but instead the latest example of a talent wasted, lost amongst a haze of ill-discipline.

In 2006 De Rossi was an overenthusiastic 22-year-old wanting to grab the chance of a lifetime. He found himself blasted into international consciousness at a World Cup for which Italy had had a miserable build-up, and when his country needed a display of maturity from him, he couldn’t provide it. His elbow on the USA’s Brian McBride was unforgivable, and was punished with the four-match ban it deserved.

Roll of dishonour

19-10-04 Leverkusen (a) Champs Lge
Cagliari (a) Serie A
Club Brugge (a) UEFA Cup
USA (K'lautern) World Cup
Genoa (a) Serie A
07-03-09 Udinese (h) Serie A
04-12-10 Chievo (a) Serie A
Bari (a) Serie A

But there was hope still. He returned to play a key part in the Azzurri’s magical night in Berlin and for two years solid continued his apparent rise towards super-stardom. His performances in Roma’s midfield suggested that the maturity missing in Kaiserslautern was in enough evidence for the hype to have been true. He even attracted the attention of Real Madrid, who wanted to nurture De Rossi’s qualities and take them to the biggest of stages.

In declaring his desire to stay with the Italian side for his entire career, the Roman committed himself to becoming the next Francesco Totti. But while that choice was welcomed by the club’s fans, who remain staunch defenders of De Rossi to this day, it has seen his progress as a world-class midfielder stunted.

From the dynamic all-action leader in the middle of the park De Rossi has gone sideways in the last three years, both on the pitch and off it. No longer does he dominate a match as was his wont back in 2008, instead often becoming a bit-part as matches go on around him. His ability to drive his side on from the centre with barnstorming runs has seemingly disappeared, so too the hunger and desire to put in a full defensive shift behind the line of three attacking midfielders.

Now approaching 28, this ‘Capitan Futuro’ is falling a long way short of the mark set by Totti. Last night was just the latest example. The evil within him returned, just as it had against Shakhtar Donetsk in March when his forearm smash into the face of Darijo Srna went unpunished. His latest episode will end his season and will probably lead to Cesare Prandelli leaving him out of the Italy squad on disciplinary grounds for a second time in succession. His continued idiocy is threatening his future at international level as well as for Roma.

For too long people were unwilling to believe that De Rossi had changed following his World Cup dismissal. I was not one of those people. Buoyed by his lung-busting efforts in midfield, I backed him to become that next great Italian midfielder that by now he should have been. It now appears I was wrong.

"While Totti was rescuing his side from the jaws of defeat, his compatriot once again let down his team-mates, his fans, his club and himself."
Whereas Totti’s decision to dedicate himself to Roma and quit international football early has borne fruit in the prolonging of his career, De Rossi’s staying on was ill-advised. The difference between the two was polarised at the San Nicola. While Totti was rescuing his side from the jaws of defeat, bagging a fourth brace in seven matches as he single-handedly drags them towards the Champions League, his compatriot once again let down his team-mates, his fans, his club and himself.

If De Rossi leaves Roma this summer – either by choice or by the force of the new owners – it may well be for the best. His chance to become one of the best players in the modern game has long gone, but there is still the opportunity to salvage his reputation and his belief in himself as a dynamic footballer. He looks like a player who needs a change. Frustrated by his form, he has returned to the immature youngster of five years ago, except now his star is no longer on the rise.


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