Some footballers come to embody a single club better than anyone else. Think Matt le Tissier and Southampton. Ryan Giggs and Manchester United. Steven Gerrard and Liverpool. In the same vein, only one player can be said to represent AS Roma and everything it stands for – ‘Il Re di Roma’ or The King of Rome --- Francesco Totti.
When Totti started playing football at the age of eight and was scouted by youth wings of clubs, his parents refused an offer from AC Milan so that he could stay in Rome. A young Totti joined the Roma set-up at the age of 13 and spent three years with the junior side. At 16, he debuted for the club’s senior side, and by the next year he was playing regularly as a second striker, even scoring his first goal for Roma.
By the start of the third season, and still only 19, Totti became a regular in the senior side.
Under Czech coach Zdenek Zeman, Totti had his breakthrough season in the league in 1997, scoring a high of 13 goals for the first time. The next season, Zeman presented him the captain’s armband and since then Totti’s career, like a meritorious student’s report card, has witnessed a series of firsts.
Winning the league
As captain, Totti was pushed into a more creative role in midfield by new coach Fabio Capello. Capello was hired for the express purpose of winning the Serie A title and he was quick to rebuild the team around Totti. The captain’s playmaking abilities, along with the goalscoring exploits of Gabriel Batistuta and Vincenzo Montella, ensured that Roma stayed on top of the league for most of 2000, culminating in a title for only the third time in the club’s illustrious history. Roma had last won the league in 1983 and almost two decades later, the ‘Scudetto’ was theirs again.
Unfortunately, it would be the only ‘Scudetto’ of Totti’s long career. Despite winning several individual plaudits, the Italian Cup and the Italian Super Cup, and finishing on the runners-up side a record 16 times in the league, a second Seria A title or European glory eluded him. But this in no way affected his stature as a hero of the club, a citizen of Rome and a lifelong supporter. Roma was Totti and Totti Roma, as millions of fans would sing in Italian.
Still going strong
In June this year, Totti signed a new one-year contract with Roma, which means he will end his career with his boyhood club. It was also fitting that Totti signed a contract on the anniversary of the day the club was informally founded – June 7. In his farewell season, Totti appears to have been injected with fresh blood, indicating much strength and inspiration remains in the old legs if used intelligently as a substitute.
Just two weeks before turning 40, on September 11, Totti came off the bench in the second half and provided an assist for the equaliser against Sampdoria before hitting a late winner from the spot with the last kick of the game, giving Roma an invaluable 3-2 win. By doing that, he became the first man in Serie A to have scored in 23 consecutive seasons. He is also Roma’s most capped senior player (761 appearances) and top goalscorer (305 goals).
While Totti’s playing career with Roma will end next year, his love affair with the club will continue. Roma are currently two points behind league leaders Juventus and the club is eyeing another ‘Scudetto’ to give ‘Il Capitano’ a fitting farewell.
- He has played with Roma since 1989, when he joined their youth team.
- Totti has won one Serie A title (2000-01), two Coppa Italia titles (2006-07 and 2007-08) and two Super Coppa Italia titles (in 2001 and 2007). He has also won 16 runners-up medals across the three competitions.
- He won the World Cup with Italy in 2006.
- Named Serie A Footballer of the Year in 2000 and 2003.
- He is Serie A’s active leading goalscorer with 249 goals, behind only the all-time top scorer, Silvio Piola (374).
- He holds the record for most appearances for Roma in the Champions League — 55 games.
- Holds the record as Roma’s all-time leading scorer in the Cham-pions League, with 18 goals.
- Totti is the oldest goalscorer in the Champions League. On September 30 last year, three days after his 38th birthday, he scored in a 1-1 draw with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in a group stage match.
- Totti is also Roma’s leading goalscorer in Europa League with 21 goals.