Tomorrow, a new chapter of your life begins. It has already begun, but this will be the real starting point.
You will not know who I am, but you have had an impact on my connection with not just this club, but this entire sport and the lens through which I see it. I imagine I am not the only Roma fan with these feelings, who would struggle to think of the club without you.
For a few years, we had to. It was hard. I took your departure from the club as a player even harder than Francesco’s, with all the weight of the emotions four-and-a-half years ago pressing down.
Now, you are back – and, I must admit, it feels surreal.
In your career, Daniele, you were destined for two big leadership roles with Roma. We all knew and loved you as the Capitan Futuro, and we eventually got to see you inherit that armband as your own. You are so humble that you would probably disagree, but no one ever received it before you more deservingly, and no one ever will again.
As we know, it took far longer than expected for Capitan Futuro to become Il Capitano. As you acknowledged long before it happened, for you to fulfil your destiny as a player, Francesco would have to end his career. You were never in his shadows, though; you were a beloved, loyal servant to your Roma, as always.
When you finally became captain in 2017, it was at the age of 34, just a couple of years before your career would end. In almost any other parallel universe, where either Francesco left for a bigger club, retired earlier or simply wasn’t the extraordinary player we got to witness – you from a more privileged position than most – for so long, you would have become captain a lot sooner.
I feel a certain degree of irony, then, when I think about the other role with Roma you have been destined for. We all sensed your potential to be a coach one day – it’s in your blood, as your father showed with the Primavera – and hopefully for us, but in contrast, none of us would have expected it this soon.
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind, as you will no doubt be aware. I am convinced you will never have switched off from Roma in the years since you were sent away. As you will know, as fans, we have all experienced the end to the Mourinho era in different ways.
Now, after all the mixed emotions of these recent times, the reins have been handed over to you. Once again, I assure you: you deserve it.
My mind drifts back once more to your playing career and another parallel to where Roma find themselves now. You ended your career under another of our own, dear Claudio, a true Roman brought in to see out the season after a period in which fans grew divided over the coach, players, directors and even owners.
The situation you have inherited is similar, but hopefully with better foundations.
Indeed, Claudio had to get a fanbase on side with their club again. Jose already did that before he left. What’s more, as you have noticed, the facilities have changed since you last trained at Trigoria, not to mention this being a stronger squad than the last one you played in.
As Roma’s last ‘interim’ manager before you (but who knows what the future will hold), Claudio Ranieri was an absolute class act. Our position in the table may have changed little during his brief time back in charge, but there was a sense of steadiness again (at least until everything unraveled with the way you were thrown out, but we have dwelled on that before, and the important thing is how you will now be rightfully embraced again).
At this point, we know little of what you will bring tactically, but we know what you will bring psychologically. You will approach this challenge – and encourage your players to do likewise – with unwavering commitment, passion and determination. And like Claudio, I am convinced you will go about it with absolute class.
My message to you, Daniele, as you prepare for your first game, is twofold.
First, embrace it. I am certain the Olimpico will give you the welcome you deserve on Saturday, because of who you are and what you mean. Whatever anyone thinks of what happened with Jose, they have undying admiration for you. It was hard saying goodbye, so it will be emotional welcoming you back. Soak it in.
Second, be yourself. You are a thoroughly intelligent man, far more so than outsiders may realise. Replacing Jose was not about being better or worse, it was just time for a fresh way of thinking. All we can ask is that you be normal – and with your humility, you will be exactly that.
Normal in manner, but never forget you are far more than normal in the estimations of your people. You are a hero, Daniele, and always will be.
We don’t need you to be a hero on the touchline straight away; that would not be fair to you. We just need you to be you.
Because a Roma with Daniele De Rossi is better than a Roma without Daniele De Rossi, whatever the circumstances.
Good luck, Daniele. Allenatore Presente.