When I was a child, I remember watching him netting goals for Italy and Roma, now I am a man and he is still netting goals for Roma. Fransessco Totti is one of football’s legendary players
Totti scored his 250th league goal for Roma on Sunday’s 3-1 loss at Torino, and still has a unique appeal. Known as ‘Er Pupone’, loosely translated as ‘the big kid’, he’s admired by great-grandfathers, grandfathers, dads and children.
That’s what happens when you make your debut in 1993 and still have a few tricks left in your repertoire in 2016.
The defeat to Joe Hart’s new side on Sunday lunchtime was an unwelcome birthday present. But four days previously he’d been his team’s leading man. Again.
Last Wednesday the living legend made his first start for over a year in the league match at home to newly-promoted Crotone. Totti garnished the clash with classic touches, inventive flourishes and a trademark first-time pass to provide a goal for former Manchester City misfit Edin Dzeko.
Sure, their opponents from the south of Italy didn’t present a severe test, but the hosts’ skipper was magnificent. The notoriously tough Gazzetta Dello Sport gave the audacious elder statesman seven out of ten, saying ‘the pass to Dzeko was worthy of applause.’
It’s a remarkable renaissance. Midway through last season he was barely featuring. Questions marks over his future hung in the Roman air. There were rumours that disciplinarian coach Luciano Spalletti, back for a second spell in charge since January, felt he was a distraction and bad influence.
But the player forced his way back into contention with some stunning cameo performances in spring. Whether a little voice in Totti’s head urged him to battle for his career and legacy and work harder in training, or the penny dropped that he was nearing the end, we don’t know.
We do know that Totti is a protagonist once more. Against Sampdoria on September 11 he was also crucial. Coming on as a second half substitute, the ageing ace created the equaliser for Dzeko and scored the winner from the spot in the 92nd minute.
There are whispers of a new contract for 2017/18. Roma president James Pallotta said ‘Francesco is very important for the team and the city. I know what he means to this city.’
The man himself wrote a letter for website ‘The Players’ Tribune’ detailing his unconditional, unbreakable love for the Eternal City. He explained how his grandfather Gianluca was a Roma fan, and the passion was passed down the generations.
‘Roma was more than a football club, it was part of our blood, our family and our souls,’ said the Italian, adding ‘Rome is the sea, the mountains, the monuments. Rome to me, is the world. This club, this city, has been my life.’
Totti famously turned down opportunities to sign for AC Milan, Inter and Real Madrid. For some outside the capital that’s a shame. Sebastiano Vernazza of Gazzetta dello Sport says: ‘He chose to remain in at home to become the king of Rome. But if he’d gone elsewhere, to a side with more resources, he could have become the king of the world.’
But Vernazza adds that regardless of his choice to honour the red and yellow strip, he should be remembered as being ‘in the top five most skilful Italian players of all time.’
It is an interesting discussion. Who knows what the trequartista could have achieved in the Champions League wearing the white of Real or red and black of Milan? But the star’s supporters will point out that Totti won the World Cup in 2006.