x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Daniele De Rossi’s loyalty to Roma raises questions

Do not count on Daniele De Rossi winning many headers for Roma this season - his halo will probably get in the way.

Daniele De Rossi is staying at Roma.
Daniele De Rossi is staying at Roma.

Do not count on Daniele De Rossi winning many headers for Roma this season - his halo will probably get in the way.

The midfielder has been hoisted on to a pedestal this week for his very public rejection of a big-money transfer to Manchester City.

In a speech that could have been penned by Aaron Sorkin, he told a media conference: "I'm staying for this team, for the affection of the fans, because I am a Roman and because I believe in this project." (Violin music swells, assembled hacks rise to applaud, cut to training montage ...)

Football embraced this Hollywood moment because, after weeks of unfavourable comparisons to noble Olympians, it needed one.

This triumph of hometown steadfastness was apparently the antidote to the mercenary drifting of players such as Emmanuel Adebayor, the former Arsenal striker whose signing to bitter North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur (albeit via Manchester City) was so unsurprising that it was barely discussed.

Such a rosy view of De Rossi's motives is naive, to say the least.

Firstly, it is easier to reject the riches of Manchester City when you are already the highest earner in Serie A, and your contract reportedly ensures you will remain so. Footballers' wage demands are often motivated not by a desire for the cash itself - which will make no material difference to their lifestyle - but a desire to top the pecking order.

A move to Etihad Stadium might put a few more euros into De Rossi's bank account but his top-dog status would be lost. These things matter.

Secondly, De Rossi's status at Roma is all but guaranteed. With ten seasons under his belt and a father, Alberto, on the coaching staff, they must print out the blank teamsheets with his name already inked in.

The fans call him Capitan Futuro, indicating his standing as heir to Francesco Totti, and hold aloft giant banners proclaiming "De Rossi Non Si Tocca", meaning "De Rossi Is Untouchable".

It takes a brave man to swap all that for the squad rotation of Roberto Mancini.

Thirdly, De Rossi is fighting a legal battle for custody of his daughter. One cannot imagine a move to Manchester would help his case.

None of these issues make him a bad person, by the way. Who among us does not value status, job security and a happy family life?

The point is that the hallowed title of "One-Club Player" does not necessarily indicate a purity of soul which others do not possess.

It is a rarity, yes, but that says more about the nature of football than the men who play it. Very few clubs can afford to keep a player if another outfit is determined to sign him (Everton and Wayne Rooney spring to mind), and very few managers stick around for long enough to create a stable environment for players.

For ever Luka Modric, the brilliant Spurs player who simply wanted more money and glory at Madrid, there are many more Michael Dawsons - hardworking and loyal players who find themselves surplus to requirements.

For every Steven Gerrard, whose loyalty to Liverpool has cost him countless Premier League medals, there must be dozens of players who would have loved the chance to show such character, to be a living legend among fans, to be woven into a club's fabric, to never have had to return home and tell the family: "Pack your bags, kids, we are moving to Sunderland."

You praise One-Club Men like De Rossi if you like but think carefully before giving them a halo. It can blind both the wearer and his devotees.

I'll save my admiration for those rootless drifters. It looks like far harder work.