From Roma Captain to Outcast, The Weird Story of Alessandro Florenzi

Alessandro Florenzi’s second goodbye to Roma took place yesterday early morning as the Azzurri player left Rome to sign a loan deal with Paris Saint-Germain. After coming back from a six-month loan spell at Valencia, Florenzi left once again the club of his hometown and there is reason to believe that this time his separation from Roma will be permanent.

PSG welcomed him on loan with an option to buy him for 9M euros at the end of the season – an outcome that both the club and the player already seem to be looking forward to. Given that a permanent transfer to the French powerhouse is anything but a fall-back move for Florenzi, who will now have the chance to battle for the Champions League consistently, it was still weird to see him leaving the club and the city he loved in silence and among his former’s supporters apparent indifference.

It is one of those stories – one of those romantic football stories that are getting less and less frequent – that didn’t seem bound to end like this.

Born and raised in Rome, and a Giallorossi fan since his birth, Alessandro Florenzi seemed to be the perfect fit to become a long-time captain of the Roman Wolves

Since the very day of his debut in Giallorosso, Florenzi seemed meant to spend his whole career at Roma, continuing that very Roman tradition that, from Bruno Conti to the iconic figures of Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi, has seen many players born and raised in the Italian capital linking their footballing fate to that of the Roman Wolves.

Florenzi started his youth career at Roma, under the protective wing of Bruno Conti himself and then of coach Alberto De Rossi – Daniele’s father – with whom he won an Italian youth title as a captain. When he made his Serie A debut in a very symbolic way – substituting a certain Francesco Totti in May 2011 – it seemed clear that the Roman people had found another of their beloved children to cherish.

He was a different kind of one. Neither as spontaneous and intrinsically “Roman” as Totti, nor as gritty and passionate as De Rossi, Alessandro Florenzi rather won the hearts of the Giallorossi people because of his candor and his “good guy” attitude.

On September 22, 2014, Florenzi run all the way up to the Stadio Olimpico stands after scoring a goal only to give his grandmother a warm hug. It was the first time that Florenzi’s Nonna had come to see him live and he wanted her experience to be special. An adorable gesture that, broadcasted live, melted people’s hearts. Alessandro was now the child every Roman mother wanted to have and, of course, the grandson every Italian Nonna dreamed of.

But since being just a good family man is understandably not enough to win the hearts of football supporters – especially those as demanding as the Giallorossi – Florenzi also had to prove on the pitch that he could serve well the Roma cause. He did so by showing an incredible versatility, proving able to cover pretty much every role on the right flank of the pitch – be it full-back, midfielder (both in a three and four-man solution), or even right-winger in a three-man attacking line.

Perhaps the most incredible gem in Florenzi’s 10-year-career at Roma is his first Champions League goal, which he scored to Barcelona on September 16, 2015. The then 24-year-old saw Marc André Ter Stegen incautiously far from his goal line and pierced him with a stunning lob shot from 55 meters. It was a feat that won him a spot among the three final candidates to the Puskas Award 2015 for the best goal of the year.

He shot from his grandma’s house, people used to joke about his fantastic goal.

As the years went by, Florenzi naturally became the third in the line of succession to the Roma captain’s armband, behind the incomparable Totti and De Rossi. He did wear it on several occasions and became the designated captain for the past season after Daniele De Rossi’s abrupt departure from the club.

The designation, however, wasn’t as immediate as one would expect, probably showing that – at some point – things had already started to go wrong. In the summer of 2019, new coach Paulo Fonseca was the first to declare that, although Florenzi’s appointment as captain was highly probable, it wasn’t to be taken for granted.

On one hand, the meteoric rise of another Romano de Roma, Lorenzo Pellegrini, was presenting a new, valid alternative. On the other hand, Florenzi’s relationship with a fringe of the Roma supporters had started to deteriorate already. Florenzi was coming from a couple of underperforming seasons, the consequence of a double injury to his ACL.

The summer of 2018 had been a troubled one, with Florenzi hesitating to sign his contract renewal with the Giallorossi. Some Roma fans accused him of wanting to snatch more money and went as far as calling him a traitor. When he finally decided to renew his contract until 2023, Alessandro snapped back that he had decided to stay in Rome for the love of the club despite indeed having some more lucrative options.

But aside from the captain armband, Alessandro Florenzi’s experience with the Giallorossi was bound to end soon: What eventually led to the separation were Paulo Fonseca’s tactical decisions. The Portuguese coach simply didn’t see Florenzi as a player fit for his project at Roma. Florenzi collected only 14 Serie A caps in the first part of the 2019-2020 season. He wanted more playing time as he was afraid to lose a starting spot with the Azzurri as Euro 2020 approached (well, we all know how it ended…)

Lorenzo Pellegrini reportedly replaced Alessandro Florenzi in the hearts of many Roma fans, bringing him furtherly away from the Giallorossi

And so, when the occasion for a loan spell at Valencia presented itself in January 2020, the captain left Roma without hard feelings against the coach – at least according to what he mentioned in an interview with Sky Sports: “From a tactical point of view, Fonseca is one of the best coaches I ever had. The problem is, he just doesn’t like me in that specific role. He was expecting something else from me and from all the others.

Now, another experience away from Rome – which looks destined to become a permanent one. The fact that the Giallorossi didn’t consider to have him back despite being anything but covered in the right-back position – as neither Bruno Peres, nor Davide Santon, nor Rick Karsdorp have convinced so far – shows that their relationship with Alessandro Florenzi is just coming to an end. Which perhaps is better for both.

Florenzi will join a top-class club in Paris Saint-Germain and get plenty of chances to compete at the highest level in Europe, something that Roma were unfortunately unable to offer consistently. The Giallorossi, on the other hand, have enough to keep their minds busy as they enthusiastically start a new, fresh adventure under new chairman Dan Friedkin.

Fresh starts sometimes require closing some doors to the past. And that’s ok. Not all love stories are meant to last forever. But that doesn’t mean one should forget the good memories shared together.