The 28th of May, 2017 was all about one Roma legend, since it represented the farewell of Francesco Totti to his one and only club.
But that day was more than just a celebration of his 25-year career. A lot was at stake; namely, Roma had to win to secure automatic qualification for the Champions League.
Was it fate that their beloved captain, after all the issues he had endured with coach Luciano Spalletti, would sign off his final chapter with a goal? Ultimately, that never happened. Yet Roma still got the win they required.
The most famous goal that day was the winner, scored by Diego Perotti against his former club, Genoa, in the last minute. The Argentine attacking midfielder fired home after the ball fell to him in the box, prompting wild celebrations.
But one goal before that had its own tale worth telling. After initially going behind before equalising, Roma first went ahead when Daniele De Rossi scored in the 74th minute.
After a long pass from Kevin Strootman, Edin Dzeko – Roma’s first scorer – cut the ball back from the bye-line. His pass could have headed in the path of an onrushing Totti, but De Rossi was arriving at a similar time.
No doubt in his mind, De Rossi took responsibility and hit the target with a left-footed drive.
Subsequent events – Genoa would equalise before Perotti’s winner – may have put it under the radar somewhat. But looking back, this was a significant goal not just for the result it contributed to, but the legend of De Rossi too.
It was always in his destiny to succeed Totti as captain. But De Rossi had proven across his career that he was ready to step up in advance when needed. On this occasion, he had the level head and urgency Roma needed.
The ‘capitan futuro’ could have let his close friend and most frequent teammate take the glory, allowing him a shot from close range on his final game. But De Rossi had little interest in fairytales. He wanted to win at all costs.
Of course, this wasn’t about upstaging Totti at all. De Rossi would have surely enjoyed nothing more than seeing his teammate score one last time. Yet at this delicate moment in the game, he felt the angle favoured him – and there was a win to secure.
Passion flowing through his veins, that powerful shot – that could have been Totti’s – epitomised De Rossi’s will to win. Roma came first, whatever the sacrifice.
As such, Totti missed out on adding to his 307 goals. But those had been more than enough over the years.
For his part, De Rossi also gave plenty to the club over the years. Even when the focus was on his superior – just like much of his career – he made himself count for a cause above and beyond.