It was an emotional farewell on Sunday for the ultimate one-club footballer, Francesco Totti, who played his last ever game for Roma after 25 years
A name that has now been written into history. Into the history of a sport – football. Into the history of a city, Rome. Into the history of a country, Italy – on the top of the world in 2006, along with and thanks to him. Totti retires from football, and the sport loses one of his icons, one of the players for whom the word legend is obligatory to use.
Totti represents a rare breed of players, those who have embraced a team and its spirit for an entire career, with the jersey becoming a sort of second skin. Players like Raul Gonzalez, Paolo Maldini, Javier Zanetti, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Philipp Lahm, Alessandro Del Piero, and so on. Players who have given their everything for just the one team, a type of footballer that is more and more rare in the modern game.
But Totti is even more than that. If you look at the aforementioned players, they have all won far more than the Giallorossi captain. Champions Leagues, league titles, cups. Like Steven Gerrard, Totti’s club honours were limited with just the single Serie A trophy. For all the others it was a lot simpler to remain in the same club, as still be successful. For Totti it was different. The striker would have earned more money by leaving Roma, lifted many more trophies, and maybe picked up a Ballon d’Or too.
Instead, he became an Emperor, lifting Roma with him into the legendary heights of football, and taking the team to a global level. The reception he received from the Stadio Olimpico on his final match day is far bigger than what we have seen for the likes of Maldini, Zanetti or Del Piero, in Serie A. Totti is Roma. And Roma is Totti.
Rome is a city that has always defended its captain, embraced his charisma and leadership, his all-Roman family, his down to earth attitude, his being “Totti”. A man no team mate has ever complained about, a tough figure for coaches, who have been unable to match-up to his strength in the dressing room. Totti has always spoken little off the pitch, but very loudly on it.
His records and statistics are mind blowing, and worth keeping in mind to understand the dimension of Totti. His tally of club games is 786, with 307 goals. 250 Serie A goals – the second best in history – as well as being the oldest goalscorer in the Champions League. He has won the European Golden Boot, as well as five club titles, including a Scudetto in 2001, and above all else, the World Cup in 2006, that lifts him ahead of many players that have maybe been more consistent in terms of major trophies.
But for Totti it has always been about Roma and not trophies. With a bit more luck he could have celebrated another two or three more league titles, but that’s not what defines his career. A career that lasted 25 seasons, always with Roma. Not even a second on loan. Always Roma. He has defined an era of Italian football. There’s a before-Totti, and now it will be exciting but sad to discover the after-Totti.