Straight from the dark heart of Italy
They may not have been deemed to be in acceptable form to play for AS Roma last weekend, but Daniele De Rossi and Pablo Osvaldo put their club problems behind them to produce goalscoring performances for Italy on Friday.
The pair were on the scoresheet in the Azzurri’s 3-1 win in Armenia and in doing so sent out a strong message to Roma coach Zdenek Zeman.
De Rossi and Osvaldo had both felt the wrath of the veteran gaffer following the Giallorossi’s 4-1 defeat at Juventus where Osvaldo had scored the side’s only goal, and were dropped to the bench for the following match at home to Atalanta.
Zeman had complained that the two established stars had not demonstrated the correct approach in training; De Rossi lost his place to Michael Bradley while Osvaldo was forced to watch Mattia Destro fill one of the attacking roles.
The Giallorossi may have beaten Atalanta 2-0 with goals from Erik Lamela and Bradley, but more galling for De Rossi and Osvaldo was the fact that they never moved from the bench throughout the whole 90 minutes and were naturally unhappy with their treatment.
De Rossi in particular expected more respect, having reportedly turned down a move to Manchester City in the summer to sign a long-term €6m-a-year deal with his hometown club, but instead the 30-year-old has lost his favoured role in the centre of midfield to new signing Panagiotis Tachsidis.
Touted as a Roma captain when Francesco Totti finally calls it a day, De Rossi bottled up his anger for Yerevan and turned in a majestic performance on his 81st Italy appearance, scoring his 12th international goal with a trademark flying header.
It was the perfect answer to Zeman’s doubts over the player’s commitment – and to add strength to the belief that a player such as De Rossi should never be left out, he then set up Osvaldo with a free-kick that his clubmate headed home for decisive third goal.
Having obviously felt he had made his point, De Rossi refused to dwell on the matter further but there could still be a frosty reception from Zeman, who many believed was only punishing the player for his comments after the defeat in Turin.
Maybe it was the heat of the moment or a calculated snub of the coach but in the live post-game interview De Rossi played down the team’s title hopes and questioned the tactics going into a game of such importance.
However, whispers coming from the dressing room suggested that a full-blown argument had ensued in which Zeman had been accused of preparing for the match as if it was a personal crusade rather than focusing on how the team should contain the in-form champions, who were just itching to rub his nose in the dirt for all those doping claims the craggy Bohemian had made against the Old Lady.
Dropped by Zeman, De Rossi and Osvaldo celebrate
Having made his own statement on the pitch, Osvaldo at least held out an olive branch of sorts to Zeman by conceding that both he and De Rossi had to earn their starting places and they would do that through hard work.
He may model himself on Johnny Depp but Osvaldo isn't much of an actor and when asked if he was dedicating the goal to anyone in particular, he replied that it was for all those who loved him and believed in him.
The Azzurri camp are certainly sided with the benched duo – not surprising, considering the black and white nature of the squad, not to mention a former Juve man in Cesare Prandelli at the helm.
Gigi Buffon claimed he never got involved with any other club’s treatment of players, but couldn't resist anyway when he added that he was happy to have such hardworking and diligent team-mates on international duty while Prandelli maintained he was not thanking Zeman for sending him two very motivated players.
Last season, Luis Enrique attempted to rule with an iron fist when he dropped De Rossi for turning up late to a team-talk and then exiled Osvaldo for a dressing room dust-up with Lamela.
On that occasion, Totti united the warring parties at one of the team dinners that he has seemed to hold each time Roma imploded – but De Rossi and Osvaldo may feel that they have already served up their own revenge.
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