It was not the way Roma captain Daniele De Rossi imagined leaving his hometown club. De Rossi’s contract expires at the end of the season and, while a director’s role was offered to him, the 35-year-old midfielder believes he still has much to contribute on the field.

De Rossi held a news conference on Tuesday after Roma surprisingly announced he would leave at the end of the season after 18 years at the capital club.

“I’ve tried to prepare myself mentally. I knew I wouldn’t be happy even if it had been my decision,” De Rossi said before adding with a laugh: “Maybe I imagined myself covered in bandages and practically crippled and saying, `OK it’s time to stop,’ and the club begging me to stay.”

All the Roma players were sat in the front rows at the news conference, wearing team jerseys with his name on the back. Forward Edin Dzeko led a standing ovation at the end and De Rossi embraced each of his soon-to-be-former teammates.

The decision not to renew his contract was confirmed to him only on Monday but De Rossi said he had been expecting it for some time.

“They told me yesterday but I’m nearly 36 and I’m not stupid, I’d understood,” said De Rossi, who at times appeared to be struggling to hold back tears. “If no one calls you for 10 months, that’s the direction they’re going in.

“But I’ve always talked little, partly because I don’t like to, partly because there was nothing to say, and partly because I didn’t want to create rumors that could have distracted the team, the fans, everyone.”

De Rossi has played in 615 matches for Roma, second on the all-time appearance list to Francesco Totti. He’s also scored 63 times.