The Return of the Prince – How De Rossi Restored Roma’s True Identity

In football, some love stories must be left untouched once the initial chronicle is closed. After all, most sequels do more harm than good. Just ask Barcelona’s favorite son, Xavi. Despite finding mild success in his managerial tenure, he has hardly been receiving the treatment a club icon ought to get, with the aura he once had during his elusive playing career swiftly vanishing after trading his football shorts with the manager’s pants. So when Daniele De Rossi accepted to take the reigns at his beloved Roma following José Mourinho’s sacking, many deemed it a disaster in the making.

Over the years, a host of managerial stints were viciously cooked under the blazing Roman sun, with some tacticians never truly recovering from the blow. So what chance does a young manager with no top-flight experience have in these turbulent times in the Italian capital, they asked. A section of fans and observers were already lamenting the wrecking of a career that was still in its embryonic phase.

Yet, Rome’s new “Dictator” didn’t accept the honor merely for the love of the club that hosted the vast majority of his playing career, or just to appease his Roman heritage. No, from the moment he made his return to the club’s training ground in Trigoria, DDR was beaming with confidence, looking like a man who knows one or two secrets about this place, secrets that seemingly eclipsed the minds of those who have been occupying the place over the past few years.

And like a majestic sorcerer, De Rossi rapidly turned Roma’s fortunes, exorcising the somber atmosphere he inherited as the club began to collect positive results while displaying a progressive brand of football. Under the guidance of their returning captain, the Giallorossi have boosted their status in the league standings, placing themselves in a solid position for Champions League qualification, especially with Serie A on track to gain a fifth berth. Moreover, Roma swept Milan aside to book their place in the Europa League semi-finals.

While we can’t attribute the club’s revival to a single aspect, it has certainly been a combination of factors that can be credited to De Rossi and his fabulous work in the training ground, the dugout and the dressing room. So we’ll try to summarize it under the banner of the four following points,

Tactical Reshape

While Roma have never been the ultimate force in Italian football, the club developped a certain tactical identity throughout the decades, becoming synonymous with entertaining football as opposed to some of the country’s other top clubs that prioritize substance over style. Hence, the capital club earned the nickname “La Magica”, or at least it’s one of the reasons behind this special monicker.

Needless to say, the club supporters found little magic in the playing style adopted by Mourinho, even though the latter’s mere presence added some glamour and prestige during his time at Trigoria. However, De Rossi immediately understood the dire need to resort to the club’s basics by restoring a 4-3-3 formation that allows the club’s most talented players to express their prowess to the fullest.

While dropping the three-man backline in the middle of the campaign could be perceived as a dangerous maneuver on the young manager’s part, the results portray a surprising defensive solidity. Since taking the reins, De Rossi only saw his side concede 2+ goals on two occasions across all competitions, one coming against the runaway league leaders Inter.

Restoring Grinta

While De Rossi managed to brighten up the team’s performances by implementing a more attractive style of play, this didn’t come at the expense of the club’s tenacity and Grinta. After all, the 40-year-old made a career out of combining technical skills, physical strength and a warrior-like spirit. In other words, this Roma side truly embodies the mindset of the young coach.

Luckily for DDR, his squad does include several players who relish the Gladiator mentality. For instance, Gianluca Mancini hardly needs further encouragement. If anything, the technical staff have to constantly tame him to ensure he avoids receiving bookings. Moreover, the likes of Bryan Cristance, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Leandro Paredes are never afraid to engage in dirty midfield scraps, despite possessing renowned technical attributes.

Even Romelu Lukaku and Paulo Dybala are willing to act as the first defensive line when necessary, much to the delight and appreciation of the Olimpico crowd.


As is often the case, Mourinho left behind a club in complete disarray. While the Portuguese might not be the solitary culprit for the chaotic scenes witnessed in Trigoria during the later stages of his reign, his presence can’t be a mere coincidence.

The Special One found himself at odds with a number of his players, including Rick Karsdorp and Pellegrini (who found a mocking ‘farewell message’ from the departed manager in his locker), and also had a frosty relationship with the club’s sporting director Tiago Pinto despite their common heritage. And let’s not even mention Mourinho’s antics towards referees and the members of the press.

So when De Rossi replaced his controversial predecessor, it almost felt like the sun was finally shining in the Italian Capital following a long ravenous storm; The new manager is on song with the hierarchy, while peace has been restored in the locker room.

When we’re talking about a club that is notorious for its heated environment, peaceful times are to be savored.


Perhaps this one goes hand-in-hand with reconciliation. After all, with the entire squad within the manager’s good graces, the 40-year-old has been selecting his starting lineups based on pure meritocracy, picking the best and most suitable players for his tactical jigsaw.

Therefore, we’ve seen the likes of Stephan El-Shaarawy and Pellegrini gaining playing time befitting their status at the club. These stars had at been overlooked by Mourinho in favor of younger, yet less proven players, like Edoardo Bove and Nicola Zalewski.


What seemed to be a temporary stint born out of coincidence and panic has panned out to be the best thing that happened to the Giallorossi in recent memory. Hence, De Rossi will certainly earn the permanent job, and rightfully so,

However, in the lunatic world that we call Calcio, no story is destined to end with “And they lived happily ever after”, and this certainly won’t be the case for the second love affair between Roma and De Rossi. So we can certainly expect more of the same theatrics witnessed throughout the club’s history as well as overreactions on every corner.

But whether this rollercoaster of a ride will be long or short, the Returning Prince of Rome will surely make it worthwhile, as he’ll be determined to bring glory to his adored club and city, or fall trying.

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