Football | A tribute to Daniele De Rossi

Disloyalty and disrespect have been the predominant features of the summer transfer window thus far.

Neymar has refused to show up for pre-season training at PSG, Paul Pogba and his agent have spoken openly about the midfielder’s desire to leave Manchester United, and Atletico Madrid have accused their star forward Antoine Griezmann of using underhand tactics to engineer a move to Barcelona.

Arsenal captain Laurent Koscielny has refused to travel with the squad on their pre-season tour to America.

The commonality of these incidents has even led one Sky Sports reporter to claim that Pogba – a player on £290,000 a week – deserves “credit” for reporting for pre-season at United.

These shameful incidents have dominated the sports headlines in recent days while another story has gone under the radar.

According to Sky, Daniele De Rossi has decided to retire from professional football at the age of 35.

The former Roma captain has been without a club since being controversially released by the Serie A side in May, a decision which resulted in fans protesting outside the club’s headquarters when it was announced.

De Rossi – who had been the beating heart of Roma for the best part of two decades – has now reportedly decided to hang up his boots rather than represent any other team.

Roma have been accused of showing De Rossi a lack of loyalty, but his loyalty could never be questioned.

He is what now feels like a dying breed; a loyal, one-club man who always put his team first. The combative midfielder was always an inspirational example of dedication and loyalty during his 18-year career at the Italian club.

‘Il Capitano’ made 616 appearances for Roma after making his senior debut in 2001 – only Francesco Totti made more – and scored 63 goals.

A Serie A title remained elusive, but he did win two Coppa Italias, one Supercoppa Italiana at the Stadio Olimpico.

At international level, he won 117 caps for Italy, as well as the 2006 World Cup.

The youngest player in Italy’s squad at 22, De Rossi received a four-match ban for an elbow on Brian McBride against the USA, but returned for the final, scoring a penalty in the shootout.

He retired from international duty as Italy’s top goalscoring midfielder (21 goals) post-WWII.

A fiercely physical and competitive midfielder, De Rossi’s other attributes were sometimes overlooked.

He earned his reputation as a hard man – he has a tattoo of a triangular “hazard” sign of a player being tackled on his calf – and reportedly chose 16 as his club number in honour of Roy Keane.

However, his positioning, reading of the game, distribution and shooting were all hugely impressive.

These attributes were showcased at Euro 2012, when he operated successfully for Italy, being named in the team of the tournament as the Italians lost the final to Spain.

He successfully remodeled himself as a holding midfielder after operating as an effective box-to-box midfielder in his earlier years.

Having been named as Serie A’s best young player in 2006, De Rossi won the senior award three years later.

In 2009, L’Équipe also named De Rossi as the eighth-best midfielder in the world.

If Totti was the artist, De Rossi was the ruthless general.

Europe’s top clubs often came calling, but De Rossi chose to stay with Roma through thick and thin. He notably rejected Manchester City in 2012, and continually professed his unwavering loyalty to Roma.

“Looking back, some specific moments I would change,” he reflected when he left Roma.

“But overall, I wouldn’t change anything about staying loyal to this team.

“If I had a magic wand, I would have put a few more trophies on the mantelpiece.”

The enduring loyalty shown by De Rossi has become a rare and precious commodity in modern football.

He retires as a one-club man, and will be remembered as one of Italy’s finest midfielders.