It’s time to say goodbye to Francesco Totti

Scott Salter
Subscriber

Today is a sad day in the world of football. After a glittering career spanning 25 years, Francesco Totti will retire at the end of this season. The announcement was made by Monchi, Roma’s new Director of Football, this afternoon following the weekend’s Derby della Capitale 3-1 loss to Lazio.

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Totti, who turned 40 last September, has spent the entirety of his career with AS Roma, his hometown club. He wrote for The Player’s Tribune in August 2016 of his love for I Lupi and how he was brought up supporting the club.

“When you are a kid in Rome, there are only two possible choices: You are either red or blue. AS Roma or Lazio. But in our family, there was only one possible choice.”

– Francesco Totti, The Player’s Tribute

He joined the Rome youth system in 1989 and made his first-team debut just three years later aged 16 when Vujadin Boškov featured the young attacker in the 2-0 win over Brescia. It didn’t take long for his first goal, in a 1-1 draw away from home against Foggia, and soon enough he was a first-team regular.

Since then he’s never looked back.

His first piece of silverware came in 2000/01, a Serie A and Supercoppa Italia double under the guidance of Fabio Capello. The former England manager utilised Totti as an attacking midfielder, due to his passing range and creativity, with Vincenzo Montella and Gabriel Batistuta leading the line. The trio were devastating, as Michael Cox wrote when he crowned the side the 10th best of the 2000s:

“With a tridente of Montella, Batistuta and Totti, Roma had as lethal an attacking three as any club has had in the decade.”

– Michael Cox, Zonal Marking

It was fitting that the trident of Totti, Montella and Batistuta all grabbed goals against Parma in a 3-1 win to clinch the title. It would be Totti’s only Scudetto, despite finishing runner-up on eight occasions.

No side featuring Totti came closer than 2007’s Luciano Spalletti side, in which Totti featured as a false nine. That side almost revolutionised football tactics and Cox hailed them as the 5th best side of the decade in his feature.

“The only solution was to play Francesco Totti upfront, but rather than remaining upfront alone and waiting for service, Totti effectively played his usual trequartista role, moving into the gap between opposition defence and midfield and receiving the ball to feet.

And this created an entirely new problem for opposing defences (because their centre-backs were suddenly left without anyone to mark) and opposing midfielders (who found Roma effectively playing four players in the centre of midfield, and yet still using two wingers). It was almost impossible for Roma not to dominate possession, and with the midfielders flying forward to exploit the space left by Totti, the Roma side almost played exclusively on the counter-attack, regardless of where the side won the ball.”

– Michael Cox, Zonal Marking

His 26 goals won him the European Golden Boot that season, but his goals weren’t enough to clinch a second Scudetto, with Inter clinching the crown. It was Totti’s best ever goalscoring season and came after a successful World Cup campaign with Italy.

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The 2006 World Cup in Germany would be Totti’s only piece of international silverware at senior level and he played a key part in Marcelo Lippi’s triumph, despite having to recover from a potentially career-threatening injury.

As well as finishing the tournament as a World Cup winner, Totti secured a place in the All-Star team and was tied for the most assists (4); he retired from international football a year later.

Francesco Totti is a unique footballer in that unless you’re a Lazio fan, it’s almost impossible to dislike him. He’s a rare breed; an Andrea Pirlo or a Johan Cruyff. With 783 appearances and 307 goals for AS Roma, football will miss the talisman.

It’s a moment we all knew would be coming one day – at 40 years of age, Totti is already one of the oldest outfield players to ever play at this level. That doesn’t mean that his retirement is any easier to take as it signals the end of an era. Football won’t be the same place without Francesco Totti, but, sadly, it’s time to say goodbye to The King of Rome.