May 16, 2019 / 12:53 PM / 8 days ago

Roma's Champions League push overshadowed by De Rossi departure

ROME (Reuters) - AS Roma will continue their push for a place in the Champions League on Saturday amid the fallout from the sudden announcement of stalwart midfielder Daniele De Rossi’s departure.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Champions League - Round of 16 Second Leg - FC Porto v AS Roma - Estadio do Dragao, Porto, Portugal - March 6, 2019 AS Roma's Daniele De Rossi celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Pedro Nunes/File Photo

Roma take an unbeaten seven-match run to Sassuolo on Saturday but that the match has almost been forgotten following Tuesday’s news that 35-year-old would be leaving the club at the end of the season after 18 years’ unstinting service. [nL5N22Q272]

Fans were angered that De Rossi was not offered the chance to renew his contract while the timing of the announcement, two weeks before the end of the season and only one day after De Rossi himself was told, was also criticised.

On Thursday, coach Claudio Ranieri — who himself will leave at the end of the season — said he would have chosen to keep De Rossi.

“As coach, I would have said that I still want him, because I know the sort of player, man and a captain he is,” he said. “In football, there are so many ways to be a leader, he is the ideal one for a coach.”

Addressing a news conference, he added: “Is anyone here interested in the Sassuolo game?”

Rome’s chief executive Guido Fienga admitted on Tuesday that the matter was not dealt with in the ideal way.

“There were some off-field issues and we had several problems. The club are aware of the mistakes they’ve made. There’s a lot of self-criticism going on right now,” he said.

Rossi himself said: “If I were a director, I would have offered me a new contract.”

Banners have appeared around the city criticising the club and its U.S.-based president James Pallotta and, on Wednesday, around 100 Roma supporters braved torrential rain and gathered outside the team’s training headquarters for more protests.

They were met by Ranieri and De Rossi himself and several Italian media reported that De Rossi told them he did not want trouble and would continue to support the club.

“The club acted in the worst possible way,” said former Roma forward Marco Delvecchio, who played alongside De Rossi during the early part of his career. “You don’t treat club symbols that way.”

Inter Milan midfielder Radja Nainggolan made an apparent reference to his own departure from Roma last season, when he was unhappy at being put up for sale. “What to say about DDR? It’s a story we’ve already seen,” he said on Twitter.

De Rossi has been restricted by injury to 14 Serie A starts this season but he has still had a galvanising effect on a young, inconsistent Roma team when he has played.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - AS Roma Press Conference - Daniele De Rossi - Trigoria Training Ground, Rome, Italy - May 14, 2019 AS Roma's Daniele De Rossi during a press conference REUTERS/Alberto Lingria/File Photo

With two matches to go, Roma are sixth with 62 points, three outside the top four where they need to finish to qualify for the Champions League.

Atalanta, who are currently in fourth place with 65 points, have a tough match away to champions Juventus while fifth-placed AC Milan, ahead of Roma on their head-to-head record, host relegated Frosinone.

Ranieri added: “I hope that everything that has happened in the last few days will motivate the players, who are used to everything.”

Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Toby Davis

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