An icon of the Italian game bowed out at the weekend. With him went a type of player we may never see again. Francesco Totti paid an emotional farewell to his adoring fellow Romans on Sunday. For 24 years and 786 games they’ve watched their city’s favourite son. A one club man in the truest sense and maybe the last of his kind.
Giuseppe Giannini played for Roma for almost sixteen years between 1981 and 1996. The Italian international captained the ‘Giallorossi’. Wearing the number ten shirt the midfield playmaker was so revered by Roma fans that they would call him ‘Il Principe’ (The Prince). Born in the Eternal City, Giannini was truly a son of Rome. Playing in side that brought the capital club only their second Serie A title in 1983, Giannini later went on to assume the captaincy. Such was his stature that he was regarded amongst fans as the embodiment of the club. A living representation of a Romanisti. Transported from the stands of the Stadio Olimpico and onto the pitch. One fan growing up in the eighties idolised Giannini. That fan would go from revering him, to succeeding him.
Francesco Totti would make his Roma debut in 1993, as a sixteen year old, following three years in the youth team. In just three years Totti would replace his departing childhood hero as club captain and number ten. The Prince of Rome had gone. His replacement would go on become King. One Serie A title and two Italian Cup’s domestically add to the World Cup which Totti won with Italy in 2006. His position at Roma though was not about the number of titles he would win. It was what he represented. Totti’s wishes for his career as a sixteen year old were prophetic. All he wanted was to play for Roma for his entire career. His prophecy was fulfilled on Sunday, 786 games and 307 goals later. It may well have been different though.
If reports at the time are to be believed Totti very nearly signed for Real Madrid in 2003. There was undoubtedly other opportunities for the Roma captain to leave his hometown team. It appears the Spanish Galacticos were closest to prising the then 26 year-old away from Italy. It wasn’t to be though, Totti just couldn’t be without Roma and what would have become of the ‘Giallorossi’ without their talisman? The lure of money and titles would have prized many a player away. Looking back on never moving away, Totti was quoted as saying “winning one title with Roma to me is worth winning ten at Juventus or Real Madrid”. An opinion which you wouldn’t hear often from modern players.
One Club Player
The transient nature of the modern footballer is such that one club players like Totti may well be a thing of the past. With the vast sums of money flying around and the need to replace both players and managers with increasing regularity, it would prove very difficult for a player to remain 24 plus years with the same club. To do so at the very highest level seems even more improbable. Some cynics may say that Totti ‘should have left’ or ‘could have won more’ if he had done so. ‘No player should be bigger than the club’ they say, but Totti was his club.
Roma means everything to ‘TottiGol’, the feeling is mutual. As a football fan one can only dream to have a player at your club of the quality of Totti, if only fleetingly. To have had one of their own be as fantastic a player, as he has been a servant to the club has seen ‘The King of Rome’ surpass the legend that Giannini left before him.
Francesco Totti’s words after his final game were as poetic and majestic as his talent on the field has been. “I’m afraid” admitted Totti “This time, I can’t see what the future looks like through the holes of the net”. There wasn’t a dry eye in the Stadio Olimpico, both fans and player showing that neither can bear the thought of life without one another.
A six-year contact as a Director at Roma awaits for Totti when he decides the time is right for such a move. A player inexorably linked forever to his team Francesco Totti will be remembered worldwide for being a sensationally talented footballer. He may well be looked back upon as the last of a dying breed of one-club players. But to the fans of the ‘Giallorossi’, Totti will always be the ‘King of Rome’.
What did you make of Totti’s career as a whole? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Pietro Piupparco