De Rossi's derby day slap could finally lead to a dash from Rome

RESULTS Sat 10 Nov Cagliari 0-0 Catania, Pescara 1-6 Juventus Sun 11 Nov AC Milan 1-3 Fiorentina, Atalanta 3-2 Inter, Chievo 2-2 Udinese, Genoa 2-4 Napoli, Lazio 3-2 AS Roma, Palermo 2-0 Sampdoria, Parma 0-0 Siena, Torino 1-0 Bologna.

If Daniele De Rossi feels this is the time to get out of Rome, he made the perfect statement of his intent in Sunday's derby.

The flailing hand which left Lazio's Stefano Mauri sprawled on the deck saw the Roma man sent on the long walk of shame to the dressing room, and for many in the capital it is another step down the road of no return.

As the city woke up to a Monday of calm, blue skies after the deluge of rain which had played its part in what had already been a raucous Roman showdown, the chatter in the bars centred around the fall from grace of one of their favourite sons.  

Roma coach Zdenek Zeman had been under been under immense pressure to pick De Rossi ahead of his preferred choice in the centre of midfield, Panagiotis Tachtsidis.

The local radio stations were demanding the selection on an hourly basis, and banners at the club’s training ground had made it clear that ‘DDR’ had to be in the starting line-up - and not on the right of midfield, but in the heart of the battle in the centre of the pitch.

There was a massive roar when his name was announced ahead of the game, but De Rossi undid all the love amongst his most fervent followers in the most spectacular fashion.

With the Giallorossi trailing 2-1 and the half-time whistle about to toot, all eyes were on a free-kick about to be delivered from Francesco Totti out on the left.

Inside the penalty area De Rossi and Lazio skipper Mauri were grappling for position, which led to the man who has been called the “future captain” throwing a right hook which was spotted by the referee’s assistant.

The skies had long darkened and through the driving rain the red card stood out like a beacon on a stormy night - but did it signal the end of De Rossi’s career at Roma?

He certainly had few springing to his defence, with the majority claiming he had let the fans down as never before, while Italy coach Cesare Prandelli promptly dropped him for the friendly against France as part of his “code ethics” clampdown on unsporting behaviour.

Zeman did not hold back in laying the blame at his player's door – and the rain of course which has become a bit of a mantra for the veteran coach who also saw his side fall to defeat in heavy conditions at Parma.

Zeman claimed that he had spoken to the players on their need to maintain a cool head but De Rossi is a man who has lived on his emotions throughout his career and of course had been sent off on a few occasions for swinging an elbow.

He recently complained that those self-same fans who had once encouraged him to be the on-field warrior have since turned their back on him.

Committing himself to the club for another five years has done little to allay the feeling that even though he may be earning something in the range of €6 million a year and is set up for life, the pressure of life in the capital has become too much to bear.

Rumours spread quickly in Rome, taking on a life of their own, and the player’s private life has been the centre of much fervent debate, with fact and fiction often merging.

It may be time to get out of the fish bowl and swim free in fresher waters. No doubt Manchester City have taken note of developments, especially with Roma general manager Franco Baldini claiming that the club would listen to offers, having turned down a reported approach from the English champions in the summer.

However, the rumour-mill now suggests it will not be England that will lure De Rossi away, but more likely Real Madrid or PSG. This would ensure the player is only an hour’s flight from his daughter, who remains with her mother after the couple’s divorce.

While the De Rossi incident grabbed all the headlines and kept everyone busily chattering away over their Monday-morning coffee, it should not be forgotten that the match itself was everything the Derby della Capitale is meant to be – a riotous occasion of colour and passion.

The torrential downpour and flashes of lightening were the perfect backdrop to the most heated local rivalry in Italian football. For many, the double-header is a league within a league and to finish top of the ‘Rome championship’ is more important than the final overall standings in Serie A.

Then there was the Zeman factor. The craggy, old Czech had coached both clubs in the past and his brand of free-flowing football was ripe for the more pragmatic Lazio to pick off which they duly did, with more than a little help from their opponents.

The heavens had opened less than ten minutes into the game, causing a power failure throughout the stadium which left only four sets of floodlights still functioning.

It may have been 3pm, but it felt more like 9pm as the players were encouraged to keep playing by the officials – and Roma duly scored through Erik Lamela.

However, with conditions under foot making it virtually impossible to do anything but boot the ball forward unless you were the quick-footed Hernanes, who still glided swan-like over the soggy surface as Lazio poured forward.

They were rewarded when Hernanes was upended and another Roman, Antonio Candreva, stepped up and hit a powerful free-kick that goalkeeper Mauro Goicoechea could only punch into the net. A slippery ball it may have been, but the young derby debutant should have turned the effort over the bar.

However Goicoechea, could do little to stop Miroslav Klose turning home from close range three minutes from the break. Then to compound Roma’s misery De Rossi got all slap happy just as the referee was totting up the added time.

A goal-down and a man-down, the last thing Roma wanted to do was give Lazio a further advantage but that was what they did just 90 seconds into the second half when Ivan Piris’ weak header fell into the path of Mauri who gleefully slammed the ball home.

Another player who feels marginised under Zeman, Miralem Pjanic, set up a dramatic finale with an audacious free-kick from all of 50 yards which caught goalkeeper Federico Marchetti out.

Marquinho then almost grabbed an equaliser, but as the final whistle blew and the Lazio players ran to celebrate in front of their fans all the talk at the other end of the ground was about a man who had long since left the stadium, and very possibly the club where he had started out.