STADIO OLIMPICO (Rome): The greatest day of Daniele De Rossi’s AS Roma reign so far may also be remembered as the moment Stefano Pioli officially entered his final chapter as AC Milan coach.

As the Roman crowd roared in celebration at a convincing European knockout display, the thousands-strong travelling support made their discontent clear as the ultras gave the players a public dressing down from the stands at full-time.

Although Milan sit three places above Roma in the Serie A table, their season is fizzling out fast, while there is a growing sense of confidence again among Giallorossi supporters after a day to remember for De Rossi.

Daniele De Rossi’s dream day

De Rossi Roma
AS Roma’s Daniele De Rossi. [@OfficialASRoma]

For football coaches, Thursdays don’t get much better than the one De Rossi has just enjoyed.

In the morning, his future was settled when the club announced that he will remain in charge for the 2024/25 season and possibly beyond, having mightily impressed in three months as interim boss.

De Rossi’s Roma record of 11 wins, four draws and two defeats since taking over a side shorn of confidence and sliding down the standings is impressive enough on its own.

Yet he has had to convince many onlookers that his impact has been down to more than simply offering a new-coach bounce as a club legend who knows how to motivate his players.

He can do those things, of that there is little doubt, but De Rossi has also shown real tactical savvy in high-pressure moments.

AS Roma’s Paulo Dybala celebrates with Daniele De Rossi. [@OfficialASRoma]

The Europa League quarter-final was a case in point; De Rossi‘s switch to a 4-4-2, taking Pioli by surprise by switching Stephan El Shaarawy to the right of midfield, worked a treat in the first leg, while his side had put the tie to bed within 22 minutes of the second leg before showing remarkable defensive organisation and composure to keep a desperate Milan side at bay for over an hour with 10 men.

Not only has De Rossi transformed Roma‘s form, but he has already succeeded in areas where Jose Mourinho could not.

Under the new boss, Roma won the Rome Derby for the first time in two years, then beat Milan for the first time in three-and-a-half years…before repeating the feat a week later. Roma’s frailty in big games against fellow top Serie A sides is seemingly gone.

“We used our hearts. We ran a lot, but also had tactical awareness. I’m proud to coach this team,” De Rossi said after the game.

“We saw that even Real Madrid defend deep when they need to [in their Champions League quarter-final win over Manchester City], so we did well to do that.”

The repeat of a semi-final against Bayer Leverkusen will be an even more daunting task this time around, with the Germans now coming in as freshly-crowned Bundesliga champions and unbeaten all season.

But De Rossi is on course to not only lead the Lupi through another memorable European campaign, but take them back into the Champions League for the first time in six years, especially now that Italy has been guaranteed a fifth qualification spot.

Pioli under pressure at AC Milan

AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli. [Photo: acmilan.com]

While De Rossi is on the rise, Pioli is facing possibly greater pressure than ever before as he searches for an answer to Milan‘s unexpected slump.

The Rossoneri were flying not long ago, cruising past Juventus into second place in Serie A during a rampaging seven-match winning run in March.

But the back-to-back defeats to Roma, which sandwiched a bonkers 3-3 draw against relegation-threatened Sassuolo, have put Pioli in an unenviable position.

He is facing questions over his future from the fans and the media, with Friday’s La Gazzetta dello Sport leading with ‘Milan hell‘ and ‘Pioli trembles‘ headlines, before suggesting: ‘the derby might not be enough’.

This next task is a big one; to stop rivals Inter from clinching their 20th Scudetto – and becoming the first Milanese club to earn a second gold star – by avoiding defeat in Monday’s Derby della Madonnina.

Inter’s Marcus Thuram and AC Milan’s Malick Thiaw battle for the ball during a Milan derby. [@Inter_en]

If he fails, it could be the end of what has been a remarkable success story. Pioli led Milan to their first Scudetto for 11 years in 2021/22 before taking them to the Champions League semi-finals last season for the first time since 2007. He has made the Rossoneri a credible threat at home and abroad once again.

But all good things come to an end, and the Rossoneri exiting Europe with a whimper and failing to challenge their rivals for the title has led to calls for a change.

This season has been no disgrace; few tipped Milan for the title ahead of the campaign and they currently sit second, while finishing third in the Champions League ‘group of death’ was neither a great achievement nor a disastrous failure.

But Pioli himself admitted that a season that has provided little cause for cheer could end with a Milan Derby defeat that will go down in history for all the wrong reasons, unless they change things fast.

“A lot of things must change; quality, intensity, and if we play like tonight [against Inter], we will have no chance,” Pioli said. “The guys know that.”

Pioli, who has a contract for one more year at the Stadio San Siro, has remained guarded about his future. “At the end of the season we will consider everything with the club,” he said.

It could be that just as De Rossi‘s story is starting, Pioli‘s is ending.