By Kris Voakes at the Stadio Olimpico
Daniele De Rossi has been keeping a low profile of late. It’s always the case when things aren’t looking so rosy professionally. He’s quieter, more sullen perhaps, when fans approach him wanting to talk about the goings-on at Roma, and he volunteers to pick up daughter Gaia from school much less often than when he’s enjoying his football.
After seeing red in the Giallorossi’s 3-2 derby defeat to Lazio on Sunday, he may well decide to don a hat, glasses and fake moustache to go full-on incognito when taking to the streets of the capital for the next week or two.
His ridiculous swinging arm at the face of Biancocelesti skipper Stefano Mauri left his side a man light for the remaining 45 minutes of a game they were already trailing after quickfire goals from Antonio Candreva and Miroslav Klose had overturned a lead Erik Lamela had earned in the 11th minute for Roma.
|MATCH FACTS | Lazio 3-2 Roma
It was clearly a heartfelt reaction… not necessarily to the immediate issue of the Lupi’s sudden disadvantage in the derby, but more to the ongoing saga behind the scenes in the past few weeks, which led to his being dropped and considered for a transfer just nine months after signing a new five-year deal.
The ‘Capitan Futuro’s future at the club is in major doubt after he told the press following the 4-1 defeat at Juventus that Roma are not good enough to challenge for the title, and his display of petulance at the Stadio Olimpico has done nothing to improve the situation.
Coach Zdenek Zeman has already switched him away from the pivot role of the midfield three to the right, and even left him out of the starting XI entirely, and now he has been given every reason to respond to De Rossi’s sending-off on his return to the centre of the midfield trio by making him suffer once more.
The Italy international spent much of last season refusing to publicly commit himself to the club he has served for his entire career, and despite his new contract tying him to the club until 2017, there was a get-out clause allowing him to leave for a better deal in the summer. In August he reiterated his desire to stay with Roma in an elaborate press conference, but rumours have lingered and his difficulties over the last six weeks have opened the door to further questions about his future.
Now he faces up to three more games on the sidelines through suspension, and if Roma’s second-half performance in the derby is anything to go by, they may prove to be just as effective without him. His first-half showing was certainly not a contributory factor to the deficit - he was actually very effective - but after Ivan Piris gifted a third goal to Lazio, the Giallorossi fought back. With substitutes Marquinho and Miralem Pjanic having a positive impact on the late comeback attempt, there is every reason to believe they can cope without De Rossi.
Politically, it may be a stinging blow to lose one of the club’s two major figureheads, and with Roma struggling to put a string of victories together under Zeman, De Rossi did hold the upper hand in the public duel which is threatening to embarrass the club. He has said before that he wants to stay, despite Roberto Mancini's clear desire to take him to Manchester City, and he had supporters' trust almost without exception at one point. But if he continues to show his dissatisfaction by delivering moments reminiscent of Kaiserslautern 2006 and Bari 2011, there could well be fewer tears than expected were he to depart the club he loves.
- Football being what it is, it really came as no surprise at all that Inter followed up a ground-breaking victory away to Juventus with defeat to Atalanta on Sunday night. The Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia has rarely been a happy hunting ground for the Nerazzurri in recent times, and their 3-2 loss had the double impact of rendering useless their terrific result in Turin eight days earlier. Whereas last week they put in a magnificent defensive display as a team, in Bergamo they failed to carry out some of the very basic skills without the ball, resulting in a couple of gifted goals and a deserved penalty as Matias Silvestre and Juan Jesus were taught a lesson by Atalanta’s German Denis. Inter’s 10-game winning run is over, and the title race is looking lopsided once more.
- The Nerazzurri’s city rivals fared no better, as they went down to a crushing 3-1 home defeat to Fiorentina. Alexandre Pato’s penalty miss summed up AC Milan’s day, as they were completely outclassed for long spells by a Viola side who are now more than holding their own at the top end of the Serie A table. If the recent seven-point haul from fixtures against Genoa, Palermo and Chievo had kidded anyone into thinking the Rossoneri could be back challenging before long, this performance reminded them just how deep the hole they find themselves in is right now. And it’s not about to get any easier too quickly either, since their next appointment sees them make the trip to third-placed Napoli, meaning Massimiliano Allegri still has much convincing to do.
- The Partenopei themselves picked up a vital win with two injury-time goals at Genoa. After having collected just four points from their last four games, it was a welcome 4-2 victory which puts them one point off second. Once more they were helped out by the fantastic finishing of Edinson Cavani, who netted his 14th goal in all competitions this season. The Uruguayan is now arguably the most valuable player in the Italian league, and the loss of him to foreign shores next summer would arguably be an even bigger blow to Serie A than the departures of Thiago Silva, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Samuel Eto’o over recent years. He may well bang in goals left, right and centre against 19 of the 20 sides in campionato, but it is in everyone’s best interests that he continues to do exactly that if the competition is to thrive once more, sooner rather than later.