Like a transfer from the imaginary world of a computer game, former Roma captain Daniele de Rossi finally confirmed his highly anticipated move to Boca Juniors on Friday rejecting the financial lure of the United States or China for the opportunity to fulfil a dream.
An almost 20-year career spent exclusively at Roma, the World Cup winner stated back in May that he still wanted to play football despite the Giallorossi not renewing his contract this summer and despite celebrating his 36th birthday this week, De Rossi signed a deal until 2021 at La Bombonera.
Supporters eagerly awaiting the Italian’s arrival tracked De Rossi’s flight in order to descend on Ezeiza airport to provide a welcome party and with Buenos Aires’ and Boca’s roots firmly in Italy, the veteran should have little trouble settling away from the pitch.
Completing a swift medical upon arrival, De Rossi trained with his new teammates on Friday morning before putting pen to paper and confirming the transfer on Boca’s official Twitter.
“My heart is Roma, but I’ve really liked Boca since I was a boy,” De Rossi said, repeating a previously stated opinion that had created a glimmer of hope that this transfer would one day materialise.
“For [Diego] Maradona, for the stadium, because I love the stadium, I love the fans, who are passionate.
“It’s a club founded by Italians that has made me feel at home, a big club, one you can believe in.
“I’d love to go to America, but to climb those stairs, go out into the Bombonera with the Boca players… that would be a pleasure.
“The most important thing in life is to be able to achieve all your dreams. Thank you, Boca.”
De Rossi had been strongly linked with a move to Los Angeles FC but the prospect of joining Boca and the opportunity to link back up with former teammate Nicolás Burdisso proved too strong.
Now Boca’s sporting director, Burdisso played with De Rossi at the Stadio Olimpico between 2009 and 2014 and had spoken of the desire to bring the midfielder to La Bombonera back in May. “He is a friend and I talk to him every day. He has always shown his willingness to come here,” Burdisso was quoted as saying on the subject of De Rossi’s future.
There is no questioning the profile of the signing and the boost De Rossi will make to club marketing but the question remains as to how the 36-year-old will fit into Gustavo Alfaro’s plans.
The energetic Nahitan Nández is set to leave the club for Cagliari and at De Rossi’s advanced age he certainly won’t be able to reproduce the dynamic displays of the 23-year-old. Partnering Iván Marcone at the base of the midfield looks most likely but where does Gustavo Alfaro fit certain other players around that pairing?
Alexis Mac Allister made a goal scoring debut against Athletico Paranaense in the Copa Libertadores during the week and he could certainly fill the more advanced midfield role but that would lend itself to playing with wide players either side of a central striker. A formation that Alfaro decided against using in Brazil last Wednesday and were the manager to revert back to would make it difficult to find space for Mauro Zárate.
Aside from the positional dilemma for Alfaro, there could be a period of adjustment to Argentine football as Diego Simeone expressed last week. The Atlético Madrid manager finished his playing career at Racing in 2005-06 after 16 years in Europe and admitted it was tough.
“It’s not going to be easy for De Rossi. He comes from an Italian culture that is very tactical. The spaces are reduced, with the lines of the team close together.
“In Argentine football the teams are much more open, and this is complicated for those who are not used to it. It happened to me when I came back from Spain. The spaces on the field in Argentina were much more open, and I found this very hard.”
De Rossi is not in the squad for Boca’s Superliga opener against Huracán on Sunday and is not registered to feature against Athletico Paranaense in the second leg of their Libertadores last 16 tie so supporters will have to wait a little longer to see the Italian out on the pitch.
Time will tell to see if De Rossi makes an impact but the transfer should be commended and will generate plenty of interest over the coming weeks.