"Capitan Futuro", as the second-in-command of Roma's squad has been known for longer than he probably cares to remember, was named on the bench for the weekend's visit of Fiorentina. Daniele de Rossi ended up on the field for just 25 minutes of probably Roma's most vigorous performance of the Serie A campaign so far.
When "Future Captain", did enter, to warm applause from the crowd, Roma were already 3-1 up and on the way to confirming their status as one of the five highest-scoring sides across Europe's top leagues. Only Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Manchester United average more goals per game.
The actual captain, Francesco Totti had netted twice and would help set up the home side's fourth. Totti will turn 37 at the beginning of next season and displays like the one he inflicted on Fiorentina would make the most patient heir to his armband despair.
De Rossi, 29, may be the prince of the red half of Italy's capital, but his inauguration as king of the post-Totti era still looks a while off.
Besides, for the past month, Roma managed well without De Rossi, who was suspended for three matches because of the punch he threw at Stefano Mauri in the derby defeat to Lazio. If there is a frailty to De Rossi's excellent all-round midfield game, it is his temperament. His ban meant he missed out on three successive Roma wins and he heard his coach Zdenek Zeman's criticism of him for the red card.
De Rossi later let it be known he has felt uncomfortable with the way he has been utilised in Zeman's high-energy 4-3-3 formation. All of which fuels speculation that Future Captain may be pondering a future elsewhere.
He had many declared admirers last summer, among them Manchester City, but in August made an emotional statement about his loyalty to his hometown club, the Roma he has been attached to since his early teens.
Zeman last week praised the player but at the same time wondered aloud how many clubs "in the current financial climate" would take on De Rossi's yearly €10 million (Dh47.7m) salary and fork out the hefty fee Roma would ask for him.
Zeman was expected to return De Rossi to the starting XI for last night's Coppa Italia game against Atalanta, but he will not, while Roma's roller coaster is on the rise, be indulging the vice captain, nor letting rumours of De Rossi's restlessness influence his team selection.
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