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Rocco Cammisola On November - 3 - 2011

Player Focus: Tommaso Rocchi Lazio’s Heart And Soul

After waiting 9 games for his first minutes in Serie A this season, Tommaso Rocchi was finally unleashed. Coming on for Djibril Cisse in the 83rd minute with Lazio already 2 goals to the good, he crowned the performance with a goal of his own. A special goal. Not so much for the execution - Rocchi scored from a rebound after Michele Agazzi saved his initial header - but for the significance of the goal. It was Tommy Gol’s 100th strike for Lazio in all competitions, a goal that moves him into a prestigious clubof five together with Silvio Piola (150), Giuseppe Signori (127), Giorgio Chinaglia (122) and Bruno Giordano (108) who have all reached three figures for the Rome club.

Rocchi has had to wait a little while to score this goal, after he hit his 98th and 99th against FC Rabotniki in the Europa League qualifier he has failed to net again in the limited time allowed to him in Europa League games by Edy Reja. The goal had begun to affect his game psychologically, he said that “the 99 had begun to weigh on my mind” and he had already wasted a few guilt edged chances in Europe.

Back in July he had predicted the imminent arrival of the landmark when interviewed he said “This season I’ll score my hundredth, hopefully against Roma”, sadly for the Lazio fans his prediction was only partly correct. “The hundredth goal came today” said Rocchi to Sky Italia afterwards “when you least expected it, because if you plan things they don’t happen” he continued, suggesting that he wasn’t expecting to score. He betrayed any possibility that the goal came as a surprise though by celebrating by unveiling a t-shirt to mark the occasion. “100 times Lazio” read the shirt, and goodness knows how long he has kept that one hidden away.

Rocchi’s goal tally for Lazio now stands at 78 goals in 222 Serie A appearances, 9 goals in 19 Coppa Italia games and 12 goals in 26 games in Europe - across various competitions over the past 7 seasons. Hardly prolific but a steady return from the club captain.

Last season Rocchi was largely in the background at the club as they pushed for a Champions League place, and he is the forgotten captain in Rome. Though who can blame him when his city counterpart is a certain Francesco Totti. Despite injury problems, his leadership and experience in the dressing room have been vital since taking the captaincy over from Massimo Oddo in 2006.

You could say that Rocchi neatly defines the era under Claudio Lotito at the club. In the summer of 2004 with the club on the brink of collapse after Sergio Cragnotti’s food empire tumbled all around him, Claudio Lotito took ownership of the club.

Lazio were in some €120 million of debt and players had to be sold to free up funds. Jaap Stam, Dejan Stankovic, Stefano Fiore, Bernardo Corradi, Giuseppe Favalli, Sinisa Mihajlovic and Claudio Lopez among others left the club that summer. The only notable additions to the depleted squad were Paolo Di Canio - aged 36 - and Goran Pandev. The threadbare squad had a huge task ahead of them in order to guarantee survival, until the final day of the transfer window.

On deadline day nine players were signed, with one of the first being Tommaso Rocchi from Empoli for €4m. Perhaps an inevitable move for the man who since leaving Juventus’ primavera side, has played for sides that play in blue (Pro Patria, Saronno, Como, Treviso and Empoli). Rocchi’s first season saw 13 goals that made him the Lazio top scorer by some way, and helped steer to a safe 10th place.

Rocchi’s first Rome derby was remembered as the game where Di Canio outed his political views by celebrating his goal with a fascist salute. There are few better ways to please your fans than scoring against your bitter rivals, and Rocchi obliged them with a goal in the last ten minutes that took the score to 3-1, ending the contest and helping to cement his place in the fans’ hearts.

As a reward Lotito has offered Tommaso a role in the back-room staff once he hangs up his boots, but the man of the moment isn’t too keen just yet. Rocchi emphasised that he “still felt good” and that he “thought of himself as a youngster, I want to play for a long time, I’m not thinking about the future”.

When Reja was pressed about giving Rocchi more playing time, the coach responded hesitantly “He did well, but I won’t change things just yet”. But added that “if we were to go further in the Europa League then he’ll be sure to get more playing time”.

While he is unlikely to net another 50 goals, Rocchi is bound to have a part to play as the season progresses, and is prepared to accept a role from the bench and the differing approach that requires. “The difference between starting and coming on as a substitute is all in the mind” he says, realising the importance of his role “when you come off the bench you aren’t allowed to make any mistakes because you will have fewer opportunities”.

When current coach, Edy Reja, arrived in February 2010 the Lazio ship was rocking. Lazio were in the relegation places, and Reja looked to the experience of Rocchi: “depending on Rocchi and Floccari and we achieved safety”. If Reja was the keel that kept the ship from capsizing, then Rocchi has been the anchor of the side.

Rocco Cammisola

Rocco is a football writer who follows football in England and Italy for a number of sites, including his own - The Football Express ( Most of his writing focuses on the lesser talked about teams, attempting to bring them to the world's attention.

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2 Responses so far.

  1. Oliver Pihl Rasmussen says:

    I’ve made this video for Tommaso:

  2. Rama says:

    I thought Luciano Zauri was the one appointed as Lazio captain after Oddo left for Milan. Rocchi was vice captain, and was promoted to Lazio captain when Zauri left Lazio in 2008 for Fiorentina. I respect Rocchi but I do find it odd that he remains club captain even though he has been left out of the squad most of the times for a few years now.

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