By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer
There was a time when no Roma fan would dare contemplate the possibility of Daniele De Rossi leaving the club. A certain Goal.com correspondent once even had his head near bitten off for suggesting the scenario within earshot of a Romanista. The fiery retort included the oft-repeated line which determined the Italy midfielder to be the club's 'capitan futuro'.
These days, though, it is an increasingly likely occurence. And, as Goal.com exclusively revealed earlier this week, Saturday night's opponents AC Milan have joined the queue of parties interested in ending De Rossi's long association with the Giallorossi.
As treasured as he is by fans and club alike in Rome, this may well be the right time for the Lupi to cut their losses. At 29, De Rossi's value is only going to decrease in future transfer windows. Having been courted at length by Roberto Mancini and Manchester City, the local boy has so far remained committed to the Roma cause, but with his position in the first-team squad becoming increasingly tenuous under coach Zdenek Zeman, there is more than enough tension around for him to consider a fresh start. His marriage break-up was hardly the most amicable on record, and there is a feeling amongst many that it is partly due to off-the-field issues that the Azzurri regular has struggled on it.
|DE ROSSI'S CAREER STATS
Zeman's insistence on playing Panagiotis Tachtsidis in the midfield anchor role has forced De Rossi either into one of the wider channel positions where he becomes more exposed due to his lack of pace, or onto the bench. His frustrations over the entire episode clearly boiled over at last month's Rome derby when he saw red for lashing out and belting Lazio captain Stefano Mauri in the face.
De Rossi is unhappy. Clubs rarely like to hold onto unhappy players, and for as long as Roma's American bosses are keen to back Zeman's vision for the club, the No.16 is likely to remain on the outside looking in.
One of the possible solutions is for a transfer to be conducted, and Milan could well offer De Rossi the kind of fresh start he craves. With Nigel De Jong missing for the rest of the season after damaging his Achilles tendon against Torino, there is a need to bring in another combative midfield anchor. CEO Adriano Galliani claimed this week that they will not look to sign another midfielder, but the same man claimed last summer that there would be no sales involving Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
What the Rossoneri must ensure is that they have the right kind of protection and penetration in the centre of the park, and even before his injury De Jong was only able to offer the former and not the latter. The 80-odd cap De Rossi could bring both. It could even benefit the national side for two of its midfielders, De Rossi and Riccardo Montolivo, to be partnering up regularly at club level.
A couple of years ago Romanisti would have found the possibility unthinkable, but one can't help but think that if De Rossi was sold in January there would be fewer questions asked - fewer fingers pointed - than there would have been previously. The dip in form which has seen De Rossi have two below-par seasons in the last three years has now led to a serious impasse, and the fact that he has never again reached the heights he managed between 2005 and 2008 suggests that a resolution needs to be found.
And if that resolution is to benefit Roma in cold, hard cash, then they need to consider a sale sooner rather than later. The bonus for all concerned is that the player may also experience a welcome new lease of life if he is running out regularly at San Siro after Christmas. As scenarios go, it is one all three parties should consider very seriously.
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