Francesco Totti's last days in Rome? The ballboy who became too big for the club

Comments
The legendary Giallorossi captain looks set to go back on his word to finish his career at the Stadio Olimpico, speaking disappointment and confusion

Luciano Spalletti had finally had enough. His Roma side had just routed AC Milan 4-1 at San Siro to keep their Serie A title challenge alive and he was being asked about his decision to leave Francesco Totti on the bench, thus depriving the club captain of a final appearance at San Siro.

"All this really disappoints me," Spalletti sighed. "If I could go back, I would never have returned to Roma."

Spalletti: Totti is used by media

Things had been bad enough during his first stint at the Stadio Olimpico. It was he who had reinvented Totti as a 'false nine' in his famously strikerless 4-6-0 formation, a daring move that transformed the No.10 into the most prolific player in Serie A.

And yet during a bad run of results in November 2008, it was not only he who suffered a backlash from Roma's demanding fans, but also his family.

"My son is having some problems at the moment, as fellow students of his are making fun of him at school," he revealed. "And now my two sons don’t want to leave the house because they are afraid."

Francesco Totti Roma PS

Successfully balancing a title challenge and Totti's seemingly impending retirement was, thus, never going to end well for Spalletti, who has rejuvenated Roma since returning for a second spell in charge midway through the 2015-16 campaign.

It was clear even then that Totti's time at the top was over. Consequently, Spalletti used his skipper sparingly. He decided to start him against Palermo in February of last year but then excerpts of an interview that Totti had done with RAI emerged in which he accused the coach of disrespecting him.

'Totti is not a hero - he's a God!'

Spalletti summoned the captain to his office on the day of the game and informed him that he had been dropped for his public show of insubordination. An irate Totti packed up his things and returned home in a strop.

The incident divided Roma fans - two even reportedly came to blows over the issue - but the majority sided with their beloved skipper. ' Io sto con Totti ' (I'm with Totti) read several banners at the Stadio Olimpico later that afternoon.

The row was ultimately resolved, with Roma agreeing to extend Totti's contract for another season, at the end of which he was supposed to take on a directorial role.

That was a gross error of judgement, one which underlined that Totti has essentially become bigger than the club and was being indulged even though his best days were behind him.

Francesco Totti Roma PS

As was to be expected, he has found the going even tougher this season, the only difference being that this time he has remained relatively quiet, which has worked out even worse for Spalletti, who has to field questions on his captain's future in each and every interview.

Others have also been speaking on Totti's behalf. Alessandro del Piero has called the situation "sad". Vincenzo Iaquinta claimed his former team-mate deserves better. All the while, Spalletti has been left facing allegations that he has handled the situation poorly.

"Don't make me into the guardian of Totti's history and legend," he recently fumed. "I have to deal with a football player."

WATCH: 10 things Totti debuted before

Only Totti is not just a football player in the Italian capital. He is a seventh-generation Roman who used to serve as a ball boy at the Stadio Olimpico. He is the city's favourite son, a people's champion, a living legend.

Indeed, former Roma coach Rudi Garcia famously once claimed that there have only ever been three Kings of Rome: The Pope, the crime boss 'Libanese' and Francesco Totti.

This is a one-club man whose career inspired a Genovese professor to pen a poem in his honour earlier this week. Even Lazio supporters respect him for having turned down Real Madrid and Barcelona when he was 26 in order to remain in Rome.

Francesco Totti banner Lazio fans

Francesco Totti Roma

Just days after unveiling a banner during Sunday's home game against Inter which read "Best of enemies, farewell, Francesco", the ultras group, Gli Irriducibili , released an amusingly light-hearted statement in which they paid tribute to their long-time rival.

"The respect you didn’t receive from your fans and your club, and for that - we say this sincerely - we’re sorry," it read.

“We would never have allowed a player like you to be treated like this. We would never have silently observed what they have done and what they are doing to you."

The sad truth is, though, that Totti has done this to himself. He always claimed that he would never play for anyone other than Roma: "I was born Roman and I'll die Roman. I'll never leave this team or my city."

Francesco Totti Roman PS

Yet when he finally broke his silence on Thursday to confirm that Sunday's match with Genoa would be his last for the club, he suggested that he will continue his career elsewhere.

"Roma come before everything else," he stated earlier this month. Yet his cryptic message means that once again all everyone is talking about is him. His talk of embracing a "new challenge" has completely overshadowed a game that Roma must win to pip Napoli to second place in Serie A and the automatic qualification for the Champions League group stage that comes with it.

When he was 21, Totti stated that he would not be "one of those players still going at 40". It's a shame that he broke that promise, as Totti's last days in Rome are now shrouded in disappointment and confusion rather than the joy and jubilation that his unique loyalty, genius and career all deserved.

Next article:
Kaka tips bright future for Paqueta after Milan agreement
Next article:
Maltese champions Valletta want Usain Bolt
Next article:
Throwback Tuesday:The time Alam Shah plundered seven goals against Laos
Next article:
Monaco the natural move for Henry - Martinez
Next article:
Match preview: Singapore v Cambodia
Close