You could see it coming. Despite skippering Lazio since 2008 following Luciano Zauri’s loan move to Fiorentina, Tommaso Rocchi was reduced to a bit-part player last season under then new boss Vladimir Petković. Injury didn’t help either, and neither did fighting for a place with prolific German striker Miroslav Klose, and while this was going on Stefano Mauri took the armband. No one can be really annoyed at the 35-year-old, who spent nearly a decade at the Stadio Olimpico, for accepting the €300k move from the capital to Inter just over seven months ago – but he didn’t have long to impress and gain a further contract.
It’s roughly a 600km drive up the A1 from Rome to Milan, and now in his veteran stage, and still with a lot to offer, it could be his final bumper payday after being released in the summer due to failing to break into the starting XI.
”I’m so desperate to play football and to do my bit for the team and help my teammates. I’m happy to be here,” said the striker following his arrival from Lazio, where he managed only a paltry three Serie A appearances. ‘I hope to repay everyone for the faith shown in me. You can only change people’s minds by producing the goods on the pitch. I’m grateful to Inter for believing in me, the coach, the club and president Massimo Moratti especially, who stepped in to bring me here. I’m hungry and determined to make those who reckon I have nothing left to give think again.”
When he joined Lazio from Empoli in 2004 in a €1.5m co-ownership deal, he impressed immediately netting 13 goals in 35 league appearances during season 2004-05. The Lazio board thought he was worth a punt and bought his contract outright for €2.5m in June 2005, and it was around this time he flourished with veteran forward Paolo Di Canio. Although the outspoken Di Canio left in 2006, Macedonian Goran Pandev filled in the gap and another great striking partnership was formed.
His club form earned him a call up to Roberto Donadoni’s Italy squad where he managed to play three matches in the Euro 2008 qualifiers. And during the same season he reached another milestone and started to take over captain duties from often injured Zauri. But the following campaign he was handed the role on a permanent basis as Lazio went on to lift their fifth Coppa Italia, defeating Sampdoria 6-5 on penalties after extra time with the score locked at 1-1. Just months after their Coppa win Lazio started the next season with a Supercoppa Italiana glamour clash against Inter in Beijing, in which Rocchi scored the winner on 66 minutes making the final score 2-1.
The coveted number nine shirt which he had worn so famously was retired and changed to 18 (1+8 = 9), which is also adorned on his new Inter shirt at the San Siro. Rocchi is ninth on the all time Lazio appearance list after wearing the sky blue jersey 281 times, and fifth on their all time goalscorers charts with 105 goals.
With fitness regimes and diet ever changing, 35 (at the time) is not retirement age just yet and both Milan clubs have a history of relying on older players leading their squads.
On reflection, he seems sad to leave Lazio but believes it had to be done in order to further his career with Inter offering a solid challenge. At that stage of last season Inter were 15 points off top boys Juve, and crashed out of Europe on away goals to Tottenham Hostpur, but still had a silverware shout with the Coppa Italia
“It’s strange to leave Lazio after such long time but now I’m glad to be in one of the most important teams in Europe,” he said after remembering almost a decade with the Roman outfit. I wasn’t even the vice-Klose at Lazio. Seeing as I have not played a lot at all this season, I needed a change of scenery. The first target is the 100 goals in Serie A. I want to start strongly now, I want to give my contribution to the team and repay the faith that Inter is giving me. Andrea Stramaccioni talked to me about what he wants from me.”
He failed to set the heather alight with the I Nerazzurri, playing 13 league matches and netting three times – but he easily bypassed what he achieved in the first half of the season at Lazio (155 minutes). The move was risky and could have paid dividends but the luck of the draw means one of Lazio’s greatest strikers is a free agent still looking for a club. At 36, he’s not got much time left at the top of the game, and maybe a return to the Stadio Olimpico could be on the cards as whispers of Klose heading to Barça in January just won’t go away.
Replacing his replacement?
Tommaso Rocchi factfile:
Born: 19 September 1977 in Venice, Italy
Playing career: Juventus (1995-1998), Pro Patria (loan 1996-1997), Fermana (loan 1997), Saronno (1997-1998), Como (1998-2000), Treviso (2000-2001), Empoli (2001-2004), Lazio (2004-2013), Inter Milan (2013)
International caps: Italy (3), Olympic Italy (2)
Honours (club): Lazio: 1 Coppa Italia (2008-09), 1 Supercoppa Italiana (2009)
Watch the legend in action:
[Stephen Coutts is a footballer and sportswriter based in Glasgow, Scotland. His blog, The Dirty Tackle, is a wonderful supporter of Oceania football and well worth checking out!]
Categories: Roma/Italian Calcio
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