With Andrea Pirlo enjoy an indian summer to his career it is only right that he receives the plaudits and praise after his vintage performances for Juventus and Italy. Vintage being the operative word.
We as fans seem to find both enjoyment and some comfort in seeing wise old kings in the twilight of their career still able excel in a sport that has become increasingly dictated by speed and youth. But there is another king of Italian football. An all to often forgotten king. The king of Rome..Francesco Totti.
This week Totti scored his 226th league goal. He is now 2nd in the all-time Serie A scoring chart. A feat made only the more impressive by virtue of the fact he has achieved it whilst wearing the colours of only one club.
If, through science or magic, you could see through Totti’s outer flesh and bone you would see the crest of A.S Roma with its suckling twins stitched onto his heart. Cut him and his blood would bleed the imperial purple he adores so much.
That love is repaid mutually by the Roma faithful. His omnipresence throughout barren periods and managerial turmoil has been like a cornerstone to the Purple half of the city.
And there have been plenty of both barren spells and managers throughout Totti’s 21 seasons. He has a solitary Serie A medal to show for his toil and just four other domestic trophies. Perhaps this goes some way to explaining why often Totti isn’t mentioned along side Pirlo, Buffon or even non-Italian evergreens such as Giggs and Scholes. His commitment to his side and his city has been to the detriment of his personal gain. When pushed as to why he hadn’t considered switching clubs in order to improve his personal trophy cabinet his response was emphatic:
Because I grew up playing for Roma and I want to die playing for Roma.
In his career so far he has played under 14 managers. And with every tactical revolution that came with a new boss Totti evolved to fit in and maximise his team’s chances. Under Zdenek Zeman the 21-year-old captain scored over 30 goals on the left side of a 3-man attack. Fabio Capello utilised Totti’s passing skills as a trequartista and Totti’s most prolific years were under Luciano Spaletti were spent as both a striker and a ‘false 9’. In every position Totti has excelled.
Throughout the uncertainties and upheavals of new ownership and the management of Luis Enrique the one constant was Totti’s toil and commitment to i Giallorossi.
At an international level Totti is one of the modern greats of the Azzurri. His 7-year career, albeit short, brought a pinnacle moment when he helped his country life the world cup in 2006. For his performances he was named in the tournament 11. Totti retired from internationals to focus all his energies on Roma in 2007, a retirement many thought was premature.
His country’s poor account of themselves in 2010 was attributed by some, including Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluigi Buffon, as a lack of attacking guile and creativity in Totti’s absence. This week Azzurri coach Cesare Prandelli reiterated that he would consider calling up the 36 year old.
It could have been perhaps so much different for Francesco had his mother accepted the offer from A.C Milan for her young son to come play for them. Perhaps he would have had move medals to show for a 20-year career, perhaps more money and perhaps more adulation from the wider footballing community.
But one thing that is worth more than all of those things put together is the crown he has earned. Totti is and forever will be The King of Rome. Long live the king.