Daniele De Rossi admits he used to “have a terrible rapport with referees and deserved all my red cards,” confessing to his biggest Roma and Italy regrets.
The 34-year-old midfielder spoke to Il Calciatore, the magazine published by the Italian Players’ Association (AIC) about his life and career.
“At the start, I used to have a really terrible rapport with referees. I was a total pain, again and again, also because – in my view – those were the years when the referees were really damaging to us. As the years went on, those incidents didn’t continue.
“I remember a few times when Luciano Spalletti was our Coach and we were second behind Inter, it was just blindingly obvious to me. So I’d start the game already furious.
“It took the tiniest spark to set me off and consequently the referees started to feel tense towards me from the start. It’s better now, we get to know each other more and to learn from mistakes.
“I’ve had quite a few red cards in my career and I must admit I pretty much always deserved them. There are few that I felt harshly done by. Then again, it’s one thing to get sent off for a reaction foul, because there you’ve got at most a one percent excuse. If you make a last-ditch tackle and are a little late for the second yellow…. No, to be fair, I deserved pretty much all of them.”
The most famous red card of his career was probably in the 2006 World Cup when he elbowed an opponent during the 1-1 draw with the USA.
“I felt awful the first few days and I didn’t expect a four-match ban. It was a bad foul, of course, but I thought they went overboard. I saw it as FIFA making an example of me. Isn’t it usually a two-game ban for an elbow?
“Getting a four-match ban then meant the only other game I could play in the tournament was the Final. Over the first few days, Marcello Lippi didn’t even speak to me. He was hard, but also paternal. Straight after the semi-final, he told me to get ready, as I was going to play.”
De Rossi came off the bench in that World Cup Final against France and converted the third penalty in the shoot-out.
“The image that really stuck with me, and to think about it now gives me goosebumps, was of all the flashes from the phones lit up behind the goal as I walked out to take my penalty. It was the kind of thing you only see at a gig.”
He won the World Cup with Italy but is still waiting for a major trophy at club level and that is where De Rossi’s regrets lie.
“There are two games I’d love to play all over again. The first was against Sampdoria at the Olimpico, with Claudio Ranieri as the Coach. At the end of the 2009-10 season, there were only a few rounds left, we were top of the table ahead of a really incredible Inter squad.
“That day we were winning 1-0, it was the kind of game where if you play it again 20 times, you’ll win 19 of them. That time, we lost 2-1. Inter overtook us and we finished second, two points behind.
“The other game I’d like to do over was the Euro 2012 Final. I still think back and imagine myself being not injured, just being able to play. Something magical had formed on that side and I don’t know if we’d have won, but I would’ve given anything to be there with my teammates at least able to help.”