Il Re di Roma (The King of Rome)
I don’t know if it does any justice to discuss his football talent alone – his sublime ability to volley or strike a ball with both feet, his pace when running with a football or his consciousness to be in the right place at the right time. These are but a few of the abilities which has made Francesco Totti arguably the greatest Italian footballer to ever grace our wondrous planet - but he embodies so much more within his soul and character which I feel is more fitting to honour his hanging up the boots with.
With the above stated, I often find it peculiar that it’s rather uncommon for a young footballer to ever say that Totti is or was their favorite player – unless from Rome of course. Beckham, Zidane, Ronaldo, Ronaldhino, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are names you often hear roll of the tip of kids tongues, the ones they try and emulate. The prior four all part of the Totti generation.
Totti was destined to join Lazio in his youth but because of the intervention of one of Roma’s youth coaches whom coaxed and cajoled his parents, Totti eventually joined Roma. His club career isn’t particularly decorated having only won one Serie A championship and two Coppa Italia titles in 25 years. It borders on the lines of criminal that such a phenomenal player has such little silverware to show. After all, isn’t the real meaning of football to win trophies?
I always had an admiration for the loyalty of many Italian footballers – Paolo Maldini spent his entire career with AC Milan; Gianluigi Buffon, the greatest goalkeeper of all time, never abandoned Juventus when they were relegated to Serie B due to the Italian match fixing scandal, aka Calciopoli; Totti - Il Gladiatore spent his entire career with AS Roma despite, aside from the 2001 season, never being supplemented with complimentary talents to enable consistent title challenges, whether in the Serie A or Champions League.
Whereas you look at the rest of the footballing world and see potential club legends abandon their place in history to win titles – it rarely works out. Robin Van Persie left Arsenal where he was looked upon as a leader and future legend to join arch rivals Manchester United. He won one title and disappeared into relative oblivion. I guarantee he’d trade that one Premier League title to have a place in Arsenal history instead of infamy.
Most of the players ranked the highest in trophies won have done so at one or two clubs. Ryan Giggs won 35 trophies with Manchester United. Xavi Hernandez won 25 trophies with Barcelona. Bastian Schwiensteiger won 25 trophies with Bayern Munich. True one club players remembered in folklore by their respective fan bases.
But Totti – ONE major trophy in 25 years! He ranks as the greatest one club man in the history of football for me. To endure constant set-back and heartache yet endure because of your love for the shirt is a remarkable characteristic. He stated in his ceremonial departure speech, ‘I still get goosebumps when I think about June 17, 2001’ – the year Roma won the Serie A title. We’re talking about 16 years ago and he still relives the moment. That’s what it means to the talisman – it’s special, memorable and historic. I irk when I hear pundits and former players say that a player should leave their club to win trophies. It's seems slanderous to me - with the intention to break a bond which means so much. I urge you to watch the posted video. You cannot get the raw, pure emotion which Totti expresses from winning a trophy but only from developing a connection with people whom you love and cherish.
Fransesco Totti is the epitomy of class and a great lesson for young players – that football isn’t just about winning trophies – it embodies so much more such as love, pride and passion. At the end of your footballing career, I don’t believe you look back upon ALL of the trophies you’ve won but rather upon the class which you demonstrated on an off the pitch, the memories you retain and the happiness you fulfill yourself with moving forward. Silverware doesn’t dictate this, the love of those who surround you does and you only build that love through honour.
Follow your heart and not your head, this will lead you to unparalleled pastures of happiness.
Francesco Totti did and look at him - the King of Rome, Long Live the King.