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    Pellegrini: “You have to earn the captain's armband every day”

    Lorenzo Pellegrini sat down alongside Daniele De Rossi to speak to the media the day before Roma's Europa League quarter-final second leg against AC Milan.

    This is what the skipper had to say...

    As the captain, what do you say to your team-mates before a match like this, knowing that you go into it with a lead? And why have you not spoken much in public recently? Was there something that annoyed you?

    “No, it's something we decided with the club. There was a period at the start of the season when I had those two injuries and we agreed that it would be better to focus on my health, both physical and mental, at the time. It can happen at certain points of the season, even if you're captain, not to speak to the media. But I'm here and I've always been here for my team-mates and for Roma. That's all that matters to me.

    “I think there are other games where it's harder to make the team understand how important they are, because this is the sort of game everyone wants to be involved in. A match where you go out there and play football with 70,000 people cheering you on, showing you love and pushing you to find that little bit extra.

    “We know it's going to be a difficult game because Milan want to go through – but so do we. We played really well in Milan and I think we can do the same again. Actually, we can play even better.”

    Before the Udinese game, De Rossi said you need a mentality like Real Madrid's to win both in the league and in Europe. Is the right mentality one where you go out and try to win every game without trying to defend a result?

    “I think that's the mindset the boss is trying to instil, but I think when he said that he was referring more to the fact that you have big matches like this one and others that you might think are other less-important matches, because they don't get top billing, or because they're in the league, or because they're against less-famous teams than Milan. What he meant was that it's those 'less-important' matches that allow you to play against the type of team we want to be challenging. It's a mental thing: a team with a strong mentality will play the same way against Milan and against any other team.

    “That's something we need to work on and improve and I think the coach can help us a lot, because the truth is that in the last few seasons we've done incredibly well in Europe but have come up a bit short in Serie A. And for a club with Roma's potential, that shouldn't happen.

    “Roma are a huge club and should be playing in the biggest competitions. Our aim is to get Roma back where the club deserves to be and we're working really hard to make it happen.”

    Tomorrow you'll overtake Aldair and become the Roma player with the third most European appearances. In second place is your coach. Do you hope to overtake him too? Can you see yourself spending your entire career at Roma?

    “I've said this lots of times before: this is my home but at the same time it's an ongoing challenge. The way I see Roma, you have to come into training every day and show you deserve to play for this club.

    “In a similar way, wearing the captain's armband is an honour, a massive honour, because I never thought I'd have the chance to do something this special in my career. But the armband, just like the shirt, is something you have to wear every day, 365 days a year, not just when you're here or at the stadium.

    “It's a dream for me to be sitting here alongside the coach, our great coach. I'm enjoying the moment, as is right, knowing that I have to earn the right to wear this badge every day.”

    How are things going for you on the pitch at the moment?

    “I feel good and we're doing well. If somebody had told us a few months ago, when the boss came in, that we'd be where we are now, I think we'd all have been happy. We can say that Roma have started out on a journey that's going well. We have lots of things to improve but we're on the right path.

    “As for myself, I'm pleased with how I'm playing but we haven't done anything yet. We haven't achieved any of the goals we have in mind yet, so it's a bit early to say we're satisfied. What I always say in the dressing room is that we should be excited about what we're doing but never rest on our laurels. I think we can do really well. We can keep working hard and go down a road that can lead us to happiness.”

    You've spoken about your happiness and I think you went through a difficult time because of certain things that not everyone understood entirely. Would you like to talk about that? Did you use that to find the strength and the form you're in now?

    “I'll answer without really answering. I'll give you a generic answer. I am what you see and what others see. Lots of people say they appreciate my transparency. What's more, I have an important role here, and not because I want to be important for others, but because it means a lot to me. It's not just about putting the armband on, but much more.

    “What I want to say is that I would never disrespect Roma because Roma has been my life. I've always done and I'll always do what is best for Roma. Always.”

    What has De Rossi given you that other coaches haven't?

    “Every coach is different, teaches you different things and leaves you with something that stays with you forever. I already had a relationship with the coach but when one of you is the coach and the other is the player, you think about doing what's best for the team.

    “What I've said to the coach as well is that he's surprised me in lots of ways. I've always known he was the sort of person who was cut out for being a coach and I always thought he wouldn't be a normal coach but one who was capable of revolutionising, a coach everyone would want. But I didn't expect him to be so well prepared already. The truth is I was surprised at the start. A bit less now that we've been working together for a while.

    “We're all very happy and we're preparing games really well. We trust him completely and would jump into the fire for him. And that's very important for a coach – knowing that you're sharing your ideas with people who have the quality and the intelligence to take them on board. That's crucial for us because he explains them to us well and we grasp them well. At least, that's what we try to do.”