For a player who is an Italy regular and who is set to lead AS Roma against Real Madrid CF in their UEFA Champions League Group C opener, Damiano Tommasi was in self-deprecating form when quizzed about taking over the Roma captaincy from the suspended Francesco Totti.
Focused on match
"More than the captain's armband, I will be thinking about the match, a match which doesn't need any extra motivation," the 28-year-old midfield player told uefa.com, deflecting the focus from his achievement. He initially got a name for modesty in claiming he had not deserved his first national team call-up in 1998. "We know we need to play well right from the start of the Champions League in order to proceed," he added. "Above all at home, and playing against Real Madrid."
Grit and determination
A softly spoken man, the bearded and tousle-haired Tommasi is also about the last player in Serie A likely to take a theatrical dive when brushed lightly in the penalty area. But if he does not appear to possess the blunt force of character of many team captains, after six seasons in the Roma shirt he has convinced the club's fans of his grit and determination.
Coach Fabio Capello has had no doubts about his new captain's ability to fire up his players in the wake of Roma's 2-1 weekend Serie A defeat by Bologna FC. "We are used to thinking ahead to the next game, and when you lose you want to play again immediately," said Tommasi confidently.
After fans' favourite Totti, Tommasi is perhaps the next player most identified with the Roma cause. After arriving from Hellas-Verona FC in 1996, he has featured in 248 games, scoring 13 goals and providing a cultured presence in midfield which proved crucial in Roma's 2001 Italian title triumph - a victory which launched them into the Champions League for the first time.
Roma began their 2001/02 European season on a losing note, ironically to Madrid, but Tommasi believes the team has matured since then. "Our match last season was our first in the Champions League and against a strong team like Madrid," he said. "This time we have met them in pre-season and we have a year's experience under our belts in the Champions League which makes us stronger."
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