For Daniele De Rossi, Italy's national team is a sort of personal oasis.
It's a squad where he can simply be a highly dependable midfielder and push aside the immense pressure he plays under at his club, Roma.
Born in Rome and bred in Roma's system where his father remains the club's youth coach, De Rossi has long been seen as the successor to Roma great Francesco Totti as the squad's next captain.
That's no sure thing anymore, though. Not after a season to forget.
De Rossi didn't score a single goal - not in Serie A and not in the Italian Cup, where Roma was beaten by city rival Lazio in the final - and often was relegated to the bench.
Speculation is high that De Rossi could depart Roma before next season begins and he has only increased the rumors with his recent comments from the national team camp.
In an interview published in Rome-based sports daily Corriere dello Sport on Tuesday, De Rossi discussed how he has to deal with ''slander'' on a constant basis and how his every single word or move is twisted into different meanings.
Ahead of Italy's match with Japan on Wednesday at the Confederations Cup, De Rossi did not want to discuss his club future any further.
''It would be disrespectful to talk about the future now,'' De Rossi said Tuesday. ''My focus now is only on Japan, then the match against Brazil, then we're hoping a semifinal and the final of this tournament.''
De Rossi has been a regular starter for Italy since he played at the age of 22 in the squad that won the 2006 World Cup. Now 29 and with 86 appearances for the national team, he's one of the squad's veterans, trailing only captain Gianluigi Buffon's 129 caps and Andrea Pirlo's 100.
It might turn out that the captaincy in his future will be with Italy, not Roma.
The only goal De Rossi did score this season came in Italy's 2-2 draw with Brazil in a friendly in March. He also helped set up Mario Balotelli's winning goal in Sunday's 2-1 win over Mexico.
''I don't think I play well with the national team just because I'm relaxed. It's also because I'm helped by having a great team around me,'' De Rossi said. ''Things work around here. When (Italy coach Cesare) Prandelli arrived we were coming off some missteps but we rebuilt with a clear style of play and behavior and now we have the necessary serenity. That's not all you need to win but it's a good ingredient.''
Since a group of four Boston executives took over Roma two years ago to become the first foreign majority owners in Serie A, serenity has been sorely lacking at the club. Rudi Garcia was recently hired to become the capital club's fourth different coach since the ownership switch.
With each new coach, the versatile De Rossi has had to adapt to a new position.
''I think the difference here is that we just ask him to do what he's capable of,'' Prandelli said. ''And we judge him through a different lens.''