Still, the lasting image of the AS Roma midfielder in 2006 was his elbow that bloodied the face of United States forward Brian McBride and the ensuing four-game ban that followed.
De Rossi was the youngest member of Italy's team and his inexperience showed. Now 26, he's a virtual veteran — with a grizzly beard — and is reportedly being courted by Real Madrid.
Despite the transfer speculation, De Rossi says he has only one thing on his mind.
"I really want to have a great World Cup, because we all know how the last one went for me," De Rossi said Wednesday at Italy's training camp in the Italian Alps. "I like to always leave a positive mark and what I did then was pretty negative.
"Things change. That World Cup changed all of us."
With 52 appearances for Italy, De Rossi has become a fixture in the midfield. He's also a fixture in Roma's lineup, where he's been hailed as the "future captain" after Francesco Totti.
De Rossi was born and raised in Rome, and his father Alberto coaches the club's youth side.
Considering its financial struggles, Roma has done quite well recently, challenging Inter Milan for the Serie A title down to the final day of the season and reaching the Champions League quarterfinals in 2007 and '08. Still, the club hasn't been very active in the transfer market, and selling De Rossi would bring in some much-needed money.
"If the club tells me it's an economic necessity, I would go (to Real Madrid)," De Rossi said, adding that he would only transfer to a foreign club. "I'll never play for any club besides Roma in Italy. Italy means Roma for me.
"I haven't changed clubs since I moved from Ostia Mare to Roma when I was 11, so I'm not used to addressing these things. Really though, you should ask Real Madrid or Roma about this. I don't know anything about it. All I'm thinking about right now is training for the World Cup. What will be will be."