Boca Juniors have confirmed the signing of Italian midfielder Daniele De Rossi, who has left Roma after 18 years at the club and joins the Argentinian side on a free transfer.
De Rossi was received in the early morning at Buenos Aires’ Ezeiza airport and transported to have his medical done immediately. He is expected to join the squad for the first practice on Friday morning, and officially presented on Monday.
At 36, many suspected the midfielder would retire as a one-club man when Roma did not renew his contract this summer. But rumours began to fly in May when at a press conference he said: “I still want to play football, it would be unjust to me if I decide to stop now.”
Twitter fed that speculation after a picture of De Rossi holding up a Boca kit with his name and number did the rounds. And Boca fans began dreaming when De Rossi reportedly said: “I don’t want to stop playing with the regret of not being able to wear the shirt of Boca.”
He will be Boca’s marquee signing of the current transfer window. It is likely De Rossi’s relationship with Boca’s sporting director, Nicolás Burdisso, helped the club seal the deal. Burdisso played at centre-back for Roma between 2009 and 2014. Boca also signed winger Eduardo Salvio from Benfica last week.
The club’s manager, Gustavo Alfaro, lauded De Rossi and said “he’ll add his experience and quality”. De Rossi will be one of the older players in the side, but despite his age, his gritty style will fit in with the Argentinian league. He is a year older than Carlos Tevez, who left Juventus at his peak to join his boyhood club in 2014 after playing in the Champions League final.
Argentinian teams are allowed only five spots for international players in each squad, but the prospective exit of Uruguayan midfielder Nahitan Nández to Cagliari, and Colombia-born Frank Fabra being granted Argentinian citizenship, have freed up room for De Rossi.
Some remain skeptical of the Italian’s ability and will to perform at his peak, recalling Dani Osvaldo’s overhyped and underwhelming loan spell in 2015 from Southampton via Internazionale.
Under Alfaro, Boca Juniors’ formation has varied, but with Tevez mostly sidelined and Cristian Pavón linked to an MLS move, Alfaro is likely to stick with the 4-4-1-1 they utilised against Athlético Paranaense on Wednesday.
The formation leaves former West Ham playmaker Mauro Zárate in an advanced creative position, with two central midfielders behind him. Iván Marcone is first-choice, with De Rossi likely to rotate with the highly rated 19-year-old Agustín Almendra, adding depth to a squad looking to make a run for the Copa Libertadores.
Boca lost the last edition in dramatic fashion to rivals River Plate after two polemic legs and a finale played out in Madrid. After the midweek win in Curitiba, Alfaro said he would expect De Rossi to eventually play alongside Marcone, but admitted he’d “have to see about [De Rossi’s] fitness level”.
The Argentinian Superliga kicks off over the coming weekend, with Boca facing Huracán in their first game. De Rossi will get his first taste of a superclásico on 1 September, when Boca travel to bitter rivals River.