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Italy legend Daniele De Rossi had a career-long tribute to his ‘absolute hero’ Roy Keane

Keane De Rossi

“Keane is my absolute hero.”

There may not be much to shout about with Ireland at the moment, but at least we’ll always have the Euros in 2016.

That tournament in France was Ireland’s most recent visit to a major tournament (and judging by recent results, it could stay that way for a while).

The high point unquestionably came in Lille as Martin O’Neill’s side stunned Italy in the final group game, with Robbie Brady’s late header enough to send Ireland through to the last 16.

That game will be forever remembered for Brady’s brilliance, so it’s easy to forget that, in the build-up, there was a mini love-in between Roy Keane and Daniele De Rossi.

Prior to the game, the Manchester United legend, who was O’Neill’s assistant boss in France, singled the fearsome Roma talisman out for praise.

“De Rossi, the midfielder, I really like,” Keane said. “I’ve mentioned warriors, he’s up there, a really good player.”

By that stage De Rossi was already a Roma and Azzurri legend, and by his own admission, he drew inspiration from Keane.

During an interview with Roma’s official website in 2015, De Rossi revealed that Keane was his “absolute hero” and that the Irishman was part of the reason why he picked ’16’ to wear on the back of his shirt.

De Rossi’s Keane tribute.

“Keane is my absolute hero,” said De Rossi, who was often linked with a move to United during his playing days.

“In my opinion, the legendary Manchester United captain needs no introduction. He’s my all-time idol. The ’16′ on my shirt is, along with the birthday of my daughter Gaia, dedicated to him.

“He’s the only person in the world I asked for a photo with, two years ago. I was too embarrassed to ask [Diego] Maradona, but with Keane I couldn’t resist.”

Speaking on Off the Ball in December, former Ireland midfielder David Meyler expanded on the photograph story, offering a fascinating insight into how Keane was revered within the star-studded Italian camp.

“I reckon Roy is going to ring me after this and go mad,” said Meyler.

“After the game, we were just waiting on the bus. Anyway, [Andrea] Pirlo walks over to Roy to just shake his hand and say hello.

“Then Daniele De Rossi went up to Roy and asked him for a photograph.

As much as we’re looking on then, thinking these fellas are World Cup winners and phenomenal players, they’re all going up to Roy.

“You see a lot of people nowadays on social media say that Roy Keane wasn’t that great and just happened to be a good captain. When you see the level of respect he has from those kinds of players though, it shows how good he was.”

De Rossi spent 18 years at Roma before leaving to join Boca Juniors in 2019. However, just five months after his debut for the Argentine side, he announced his retirement, citing family reasons.

De Rossi joined Roberto Mancini’s coaching set-up with the Italian national side ahead of their World Cup qualifier wins over Northern Ireland, Bulgaria and Lithuania in March.

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(Originally published on April 1, 2021).

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