By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer
Superlatives sometimes feel as though they are wasted on footballers. Too many are ascribed to players for the common ability to perform a neat skill with the ball at their feet, while others are misused when describing somebody’s imprint on the history of the game. But in the case of Francesco Totti, it will be forever remain difficult to sum up his career without measuring him against some of the greatest talismen football has enjoyed over the years.
The latest example of just how wonderful a player he can be came as he turned around Roma’s fortunes in the Derby della Capitale on Monday night. The Giallorossi should have been dead and buried after a complete no-show in the first half, but the 36-year-old led by example as Lazio were made to pay for their inability to take advantage of their dominance. And, in particular, the Biancocelesti fans will point to key errors by Hernanes for the squandering of two key points and the chance to claim a derby double.
|MATCH FACTS | Roma 1-1 Lazio
The Brazilian had looked set to be their hero after firing home the opening goal. Given time to turn onto his left by Leandro Castan and Daniele De Rossi near the edge of the area, he struck an arrowing drive high beyond Maarten Stekelenburg into the top corner. And as Lazio continued to dominate against a Roma side that completely under-performed for long spells, it appeared only a matter of time before they would double their lead and earn a deserved three points.
However, Hernanes’ copybook would be blotted more than once. First, he missed the target from the penalty spot following Marquinhos’ needless handball moments after the interval. Then he was guilty of a rash tackle on Miralem Pjanic which won Roma a spot-kick of their own. Totti was more clinical than Hernanes, firing low to the right of Federico Marchetti to level matters and earn himself the record for goals in Rome derbies.
And from there it remained the Francesco Totti show. While Lazio continued to give as good as they got, even after the sending-off of Giuseppe Biava, the Roma skipper was the man who took responsibility for the hopes of those in packing the Curva Sud and threw the team on his shoulders.
His set-pieces were a constant danger, while in general play he had the effect of two players half his age. Erik Lamela somehow managed to head over from an open goal - all of a yard from the goal-line - after an exquisite corner from Totti, which in itself had deserved to be a winning assist. But beyond that, he rose to the occasion with his chest out and his hand high in the air when Roma were in their hour of need.
Fans must wonder what exactly will become of their side when Totti eventually hangs up his boots. His effect in the second half was extraordinary, but it was also enough to put to shame the efforts of many of the others playing in giallorosso. After a shameful first 45 minutes, they improved slightly on the whole and made a number of chances, but they were almost all based around their influential No.10. Thankfully, it looks set to be some time yet before they have to find out what life will be like post-Totti.
For as long as he still has the heart, he will always have the ability. And nights like Monday should serve as a reminder of just how influential he has been during his career. Lazio fans are more than aware of his class, and will wish Hernanes could have stayed as mentally stong in the key moments as Totti. Football would do well to soak up every last bit of him while he is still playing.