De Rossi joined the Roma youth system from Ostia Mare, where he had played as a striker in 2000. He made his first-team debut for Roma under manager Fabio Capello on 10 October 2001 against Belgian side Anderlecht in the Champions League. In his first season with the club, he also made 3 appearances in the Coppa Italia. The following season, he made his Serie A debut on 25 January 2003 against Como. Later that season, his first Serie A start, along with his first league and career goal, came on 10 May 2003 against Torino. He soon established himself as a permanent member of the starting line-up during the next few seasons, helping Roma to a second place finish in Serie A during the 2003–04 season.
In March 2006, De Rossi was praised by referee Mauro Bergonzi for fair play. Roma were trailing 1–0 in a Serie A match against Messina, when De Rossi scored a goal with his hand, Bergonzi did not see the incident and allowed the equaliser to stand. However, De Rossi immediately told the referee that he had pushed the ball in with his hand leading to the goal being disallowed. Roma went on to win 2–1. At the end of the season, he was named the 2006 Serie A Young Footballer of the Year for his performances.
In the 2006–07 season, De Rossi scored from 40 yards against Fiorentina on 5 November 2006, with Sebastien Frey in goal. This was the first of three goals of the night for Roma, as they won the match 3–1. He also scored the lone Roma goal in Roma's UEFA Champions League quarter-final defeat against Manchester United in the 2006–07 season. On 9 May 2007, De Rossi scored in Roma's 6–2 first leg victory of the 2007 Coppa Italia final over Inter, as Roma went on to win the trophy on aggregate.
The following season under manager Luciano Spalletti, Roma won the Supercoppa Italiana over Serie A champions Inter, with De Rossi scoring the decisive goal from a penalty in a 1–0 victory in Milan on 19 August 2007. They also defended their Coppa Italia title that season, defeating Inter once again in the final 2–1, on 24 May 2008.
In 2009, De Rossi was named Italian Footballer of the Year.
In February 2012, De Rossi signed a new five-year contract with Roma. He became the highest paid Italian footballer in the Serie A at €10 million (gross) per annum. Roma previous record for Italian players was Francesco Totti (€8.9 million in 2009–10 season). He finished the 2011–12 season with 32 appearance and four goals.
In the 2012–13 season, De Rossi received less playing time however, and featured in only 25 matches; his manager Zdenek Zeman was often critical of De Rossi's performances, and as a result he was used with less frequency. After Andreazzoli's arrival he started playing with more regularity, although he did not manage to score any goals.
Roma started the 2013–14 season under manager Rudi Garcia with ten wins in the first ten Serie A games. He scored the first goal of the season for Roma against Livorno. In the game against Napoli De Rossi played a crucial role in the first half when the score was still 0–0. Roma went on to win through two Miralem Pjanic goals. He captained Roma after Totti was sidelined through a hamstring injury as they played three successive draws against Torino, Sassuolo and Cagliari, and slipped to second place, a point behind Juventus. On 10 November 2013, he made his 318th appearance in Serie A in a 1–1 draw with Sassuolo, equalling Roma legend Giuseppe Giannini's number of caps; this match was also his 400th starting appearance for Roma. Due to this series of draws, De Rossi admitted that he wasn't sure whether Roma could seriously challenge for the Scudetto in the long run, believing that both Juventus and Napoli had stronger squads with greater depth. He also stated in an interview that he was close to joining Manchester United in the summer, but the transfer didn't happen because it was too late in the window. He also mentioned that he was happy that he stayed at Roma for now, believing moving to United wouldn't have been the best idea at the current time, due to Roma's solid start. De Rossi was unceremoniously sent off in the first game after the winter break against league leaders Juventus, as Roma suffered their first defeat of the season in a 3–0 drubbing on 5 January 2014. The defeat left them in second place, eight points behind the Bianconeri. On 11 May 2014, with 338 league appearances, De Rossi reached and later overtook legendary Roma goalkeeper Guido Masetti, becoming the third highest appearance holder in Serie A history for Roma.
During the 2014–15 season, De Rossi scored his first goal in almost year on 29 October 2014, in a 2–0 Serie A win over Cesena. On 20 January, he scored the decisive penalty in extra time, which allowed Roma to overcome Empoli and advance to the quarter-finals of the 2014–15 Coppa Italia.
During the 2015–16 season, De Rossi scored in a 3–1 home win over Empoli, in his 500th appearance for Roma in all competitions, on 17 October 2015. On 20 October, he scored twice in a 4–4 away draw against Bayer Leverkusen in the UEFA Champions League.
De Rossi played 16 matches for the Italy national under-21 football team and was a regular first-team member of the squad that won the 2004 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship, scoring the opening goal in Italy's 3–0 win over Serbia and Montenegro in the final. In the same year, he also won a bronze medal in football with the Italy national football team at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. A few weeks after returning from Greece, De Rossi earned his first cap with the Italy senior squad on 4 September 2004, scoring on his international debut in a 2–1 win against Norway in a 2006 World Cup qualifying match, at the age of 21. De Rossi is the highest scoring midfielder for the Italian national side, with 17 goals in 101 international appearances; he is also the 6th most capped player for the Italian national team.
De Rossi was named to Marcello Lippi's 23-man Italian squad for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, producing a notable performance in Italy's opening 2–0 win against Ghana, but also picking up a booking in the 10th minute. In the second group match against the United States, however, he received a straight red card after he elbowed Brian McBride in the face. McBride left the pitch bloodied, but returned after treatment, later receiving three stitches. The BBC stated that De Rossi had "disgraced himself with a sickening, needless elbow on Brian McBride." De Rossi later apologised to McBride, who subsequently praised him as "classy" for approaching him after the match. Because of the incident, De Rossi was banned for four matches, and was fined CHF 10,000.
After having been disqualified for four matches, De Rossi returned to the pitch in the World Cup final against France, coming on as a substitute in the 61st minute, for Roma teammate Francesco Totti. After a 1–1 deadlock following extra time, the match went to a penalty shoot-out; De Rossi scored Italy's third penalty to help his Italy win the shoot-out, and their fourth FIFA World Cup title. At the age of 22, De Rossi was the youngest player in Italy's World Cup squad.
De Rossi played in all of Italy's Euro 2008 qualifying games under new manager Roberto Donadoni, scoring a goal in Italy's 3–1 away win against Georgia on 12 October 2006. After Totti decided to retire from international football following Italy's victorious 2006 World Cup final, De Rossi was also given the honour of wearing the number 10 shirt. He also captained the team on three occasions: two friendly matches against South Africa on 17 October 2007, and Portugal on 6 February 2008, respectively, and in the Euro 2008 qualifier against the Faroe Islands.
After missing out on Italy's opening 3–0 defeat to the Netherlands, De Rossi featured in all of Italy's remaining matches at UEFA Euro 2008. On 17 June, he scored from a freekick which was deflected off of Thierry Henry's left boot, as Italy defeated France 2–0 in their final group match; this was his 5th international goal, and the win guaranteed Italy's progress to the quarter-finals. De Rossi was named man of the match. In the quarter-final penalty shoot-out against eventual champions Spain, his shot was saved by Iker Casillas as Italy lost the shoot-out 4–2 after a 0–0 draw following extra-time. He scored his first double in the national team against Georgia on 10 September 2008, in a 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying match.
In the 2009 Confederations Cup on 15 June, De Rossi scored in Italy's opening group match against the United States in the 71st minute with a low long-range strike. The goal put Italy 2–1 up after Giuseppe Rossi had equalized, following Landon Donovan's opener from a penalty in the first half. Italy went on to win the match 3–1, after Andrea Pirlo set up Rossi for his second of the game. Italy lost their following two games against Egypt and Brazil, and were eliminated following a 3-way 3 point tie in their group.
Due to his performances and dedication at international level, De Rossi was tipped by several in the media to be a possible candidate for Italy's captainship after the retirement of Fabio Cannavaro. His ability to perform well and score in important matches and his pivotal role in breaking down the opposition's play as a box-to-box midfielder won him admiration from the Italian fans. Indeed, De Rossi scored several crucial goals for Italy in their Euro 2008 and 2010 FIFA World Cup Qualifying campaigns; at international level, De Rossi's goal ratio was much greater than at club level during this period, as he played mainly as a defensive midfielder for Roma, whereas he was able to play in more advanced positions for Italy, due to the presence of Gennaro Gattuso in the team's holding midfielder role.
De Rossi scored Italy's first goal of the 2010 FIFA World Cup against Paraguay, as they drew their opening match 1–1. In the second second match against New Zealand, after Italy were trailing by a goal, he drew a foul in the penalty area, from which Vincenzo Iaquinta equalised, as Italy once again drew 1–1. The decision to give the penalty was criticised by some in the media, who perceived that De Rossi had dived. Despite the controversy, De Rossi received the FIFA Man of the Match award. The defending champions lost their final match against Slovakia 3–2, and were eliminated in the first round of the tournament, finishing in last place in their group, without a victory.
Due to Barzagli's pre-tournament injury, De Rossi played as a central defender in a 3-man defence, alongside Chiellini and Bonucci, in Italy's 3-5-2 line-up against Spain and Croatia during the group matches in Euro 2012, receiving great reception for his work, whilst he was temporarily replaced by Thiago Motta and Riccardo Montolivo in midfield. He then played a more regular midfield-role against Ireland in the last group match, partnering with Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo. He continued to play as a midfielder against England in the quarter-final in which Italy went through after a penalty shootout. De Rossi also played the entire match beating Germany in the semi-finals, and Italy's 4–0 defeat to Spain in the final. De Rossi was included in the Euro 2012 Team of the Tournament for his performances.
In June 2013 De Rossi was called up for 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil, and he scored in a 4–3 win over Japan in Italy's second group game. The victory allowed Italy to progress to the semi-finals of the tournament for the first time in their history. Italy eventually finished the tournament in third place after a penalty shoot-out victory over Uruguay in the bronze medal match, in which De Rossi appeared.
De Rossi was included in Cesare Prandelli's final 23-man squad for the World Cup in Brazil, the only Roma player to be selected to the national team. In Italy's 2–1 opening win against England, De Rossi had a dominant match in the Italian midfield, playing in front of the defence for the entire match. He completed the most passes of any player, after Pirlo, completing 99 passes out of 105 attempts, finishing the match with a 94% pass completion rate. Italy dominated the possession, and with a 93.2 pass percentage, Italy also managed to record the highest pass accuracy percentage of any team in a World Cup match since Denmark in the 1966 World Cup, completing 561 of their 602 passes. Italy lost their other two group matches 1–0, however, against Costa Rica and Uruguay, and were eliminated in the first round for the second consecutive World Cup, finishing third in their group. De Rossi also participated in the second group match against Costa Rica, but was unable to play in Italy's 1–0 loss against Uruguay due to injury.
On 4 September, under Italy's new manager Antonio Conte, De Rossi wore the captain's armband in a 2–0 friendly home win over the Netherlands, in Bari, also scoring a goal from a penalty. On 16 November 2014, in a UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying match against Croatia at the San Siro stadium in Milan, De Rossi earned his 100th cap in a 1–1 draw. On 6 September 2015 he scored from a penalty at the 6 minute mark in Italy's 1–0 victory over Bulgaria in a Euro 2016 qualifying match in Palermo, and was later sent off during the match for a reactionary foul; this was his second red card with Italy.
Regarded as one of the best midfielders in the world during his prime, De Rossi has been referred to as a "complete midfielder" because of his tackling, vision, awareness, passing, strength, and goal scoring ability. A tenacious and technical player, he has been praised for his leadership, ball skills, stamina, aerial ability, powerful long distance shooting, and set-piece taking. He is also an accurate penalty kick taker. He has occasionally been criticised for his aggression and tendency to pick up yellow cards unnecessarily.
De Rossi's adeptness at the box to box style of midfield play has led pundits to draw comparisons between him and world class box-to-box midfielders such as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, players whom De Rossi greatly admires. He is considered to be one of the greatest Italian midfielders of his generation by pundits and managers. De Rossi is a tactically intelligent and versatile player, who can play in various midfield positions, both in a defensive and attacking midfield role, or as a central midfielder and as a deep-lying playmaker. He has also played as a defender or as a sweeper on occasion.
De Rossi was born in Rome. He is the son of Alberto De Rossi, former Roma player and Roma's Primavera coach. He married Tamara Pisnoli on 18 May 2006, the mother of his daughter Gaia and ex-dancer of Mediaset, Sarabanda. The couple separated in early 2009. On 29 December 2006, according to a survey for the Italian edition of Men's Health, he was named Italian athlete of the year for 2007. De Rossi made his debut for Roma wearing the number 27 shirt, which he wore for two seasons. He then switched to the number 4, which he also wore during the 2006 World Cup. With the birth of his daughter on 16 June 2005, he changed to number 16 during the 2005–06 season, which one of his idols, Roy Keane, had also worn.
De Rossi was chosen as a Pringles spokesperson for the UEFA Euro 2008 football championship, along with other top European football players such as Thierry Henry, Fernando Torres, Alexander Frei, Philipp Lahm, and Michael Owen. He also appears in an Adidas "Dream Big" Commercial along with Steven Gerrard, Michael Ballack, and David Beckham.
De Rossi is featured on the cover of the Italian edition of EA Sports' FIFA 09 video game. The picture on the cover is taken from De Rossi's emphatic goal-scoring celebration after scoring versus Inter Milan in the Supercoppa Italiana in 2008.
De Rossi has a tattoo on his a leg of a mocked-up triangular "hazard" sign of a tackle being performed, reflecting his tough-tackling reputation.As of 29 November 2015
Scores and results list Italy's goal tally first.
Coppa Italia (2): 2006–07, 2007–08
Supercoppa Italiana: 2007
Serie A (7): 2003–04, 2005–06, 2006–07, 2007–08, 2009–10, 2013-14, 2014-15
Coppa Italia (5): 2002–03, 2004–05, 2005–06, 2009–10, 2012–13
Supercoppa Italiana (3): 2006, 2008, 2010
UEFA European Under-21 Championship: 2004
FIFA World Cup: 2006
Olympic Bronze Medal: 2004
UEFA European Championship: 2012
FIFA Confederations Cup: Third place 2013
Serie A Young Footballer of the Year: 2006
Serie A Italian Footballer of the Year: 2009
UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament: 2012
5th Class / Knight: Cavaliere Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana: 2004
Collar of Merit Sports: Collare d'Oro al Merito Sportivo: 2006
4th Class / Official: Ufficiale Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana: 2006