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To Simone with love

[This piece was originally published over at Roma Journal, a fan site that will be picking up all my AS Roma related material from now on]

Perotta1

“As I arrived at Roma quietly, it’s only right that I leave quietly too.”
– Simone Perrotta

A Roma legend hung up his boots for good this week.

What can you say about a man whose record speaks for itself? A holding midfielder who has retired from the game, having played 246 times over 9 years for your team? A star, who in that time netted 36 goals for club and played 48 times for country, including starting every single game of a World Cup for the team wot won it? If it was any other player, not much that hasn’t already been shouted from all the rooftops. But this is Simone Perrotta we are talking about. This hero is, for the most part, of the unsung variety. A quiet achiever who never really got the recognition he deserves, in Italy at least.

If he had been born in Rome, his name would rank alongside Totti’s and De Rossi’s as the most common sights on the backs of replica Roma shirts. But instead, he was born on the outskirts of Manchester England, where his name isn’t on the back of too many shirts in the land of Rooney and Touré, but where there is a bronze statue in his honour, standing alongside 1966 World Cup winners Geoff Hurst and Jimmy Armfield, as one of Tameside’s favourite sons.

He was the irreplaceable engine room at the heart of our team during the Spalletti era. Doing the unglamorous stuff that doesn’t really show up on stats sheets, get a player’s name on the backs of shirts, or see him raved about in the media, but the stuff that nonetheless no team can do without, such as winning possession and fuelling the attack. He was also a key part of the transition from Sensi to the Americans – a rare piece of continuity and institutional knowledge. Along with De Rossi, he was one of only two players who started the first derby under the new ownership who had ever faced Lazio before.

But most importantly, he was a player who simply did what he was paid to do with a sense of devotion to his club that was beyond reproach. He never sought the limelight, for good or bad. You’d be hard pressed to recall reading an article about him demanding higher wages in contract renewal talks, or hearing a peep of complaint about being benched. Never a word about the coach training him too hard or the fans criticising him too much. He just got on with the job and filled whatever role he was given with determination, passion and excellence. How many World Cup winners are this humble and easy?

In retiring, he said “I’d prefer to end my career as an ex-Roma player rather than the ex of another club. I wanted to finish my playing days with this jersey and I feel it’s the right thing to do.”

Retiring at a club like ours is a rare occurrence these days. 99.99999% of players who leave the club, according to a study I just made up out of thin air, transfer out. It would have been a cinch for Perrotta to land a contract in MLS or the A-League – the destinations of choice for past their prime footballers in this day and age. Hell, he probably could have easily transferred to a club like Torino or Fulham and enjoyed a semi-retirement off the bench in a top tier competition – he’s plenty good enough. But the fact that he wanted so much to end his career as a Roma player, with our shirt on his back, rather than score one more goal, provide one more assist, or earn one more euro for another outfit, is something we as fans should be so proud of – that our club can still inspire such a sense of loyalty from a player born in England of Calabrese descent. Because in truth, he doesn’t owe us anything. We owe him. A lot. Because he gave us so much and asked so little in return.

Grazie mille Simone.

Categories: Roma/Italian Calcio

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

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