x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Defending a new dimension for Daniele De Rossi

The midfielder made an impressive debut in defence for Roma against Juventus.

Daniele De Rossi celebrates his goal for Roma against Juventus.
Daniele De Rossi celebrates his goal for Roma against Juventus.

A futuristic experience was promised when Roma took on Juventus on Monday night. For the first time in Serie A, Italian television offered viewers the possibility of seeing the action in 3D.

There would be moments when a fourth dimension to the experience might have added interesting details.

Like a device to read the thoughts of Pablo Daniel Osvaldo as he stormed down the tunnel after being substituted by Luis Enrique, the Roma coach, this on Osvaldo's first game back after a club-imposed suspension on the striker for thumping teammate Erik Lamela.

At least Osvaldo was animated. The Juventus front line seemed strangely stage-struck. Simone Pepe and Alex Matri have looked much better this season in two dimensions.

The possibility of seeing Alex Del Piero and Francesco Totti, two men born in a time when watching football in colour was still a relative novelty, sadly passed unfulfilled, with Del Piero an unused replacement for the league leaders throughout the 1-1 draw.

But Totti saw plenty of incident. His cross picked out Daniele De Rossi for Roma's goal. And Totti's penalty could have won the game for the home team. Gigi Buffon saved it.

The most significant new dimension revealed on Monday night, though, was glimpsed in De Rossi's performance.

The Roma vice-captain, whose slow-moving contract extension talks are causing anxiety at the club and exciting interest elsewhere, started the game not in his usual midfield post but as a centre back.

What with injuries and suspensions, Luis Enrique was obliged to be resourceful, and he is a coach who has grown up with the idea that good footballers should be able to adapt to many different roles. In his own playing career at Barcelona, Luis Enrique shifted between wing-back, midfield, right and left flanks and centre-forward.

De Rossi proved excellent as a stopper, and still found moments to inject his usual dynamism into Roma's play further forward on the pitch. He said afterwards he had long wanted to try out the role of central defender and enthused about how much he enjoyed it.

Certainly, his imposing display, and a much improved showing from Gabriel Heinze alongside him, were part of why Juve's attack looked so limp.

The worry in the Roma boardroom now is that De Rossi's new-found versatility will have made him even more desirable for the many other clubs, notably in England, who are monitoring his contract situation.