With Francesco Totti having today penned a 12-month contract extension with his beloved Roma, a deal that means he will retire as a one-club man, UEFA.com explains why half of the Italian capital chose him as their king.
“I firmly wanted this contract, my dream is now true,” he told Roma TV. “I always hoped to play my entire career in only one shirt, the shirt of AS Roma. I’m very happy with the contribution I made in the second part of last season [scoring four goals], nobody expected that. Together we managed to reach our objective, which was to return to the UEFA Champions League. I’m also happy because I will have a six-year contract as a director after next season.”
He never deserted the club
A debutant under Vujadin Boškov in 1993, Totti has only had eyes for the Giallorossi. “Roma is everything to me, everything a person can want: passion, love, joy – the team I have always supported and always will,” he once told UEFA.com.
That commitment, allied to his class as a forward, have helped create Totti’s legend. If his trophy haul at Roma has been fairly modest – one Scudetto, two Italian Cups – his reputation is huge. Lionel Messi notably posted a photo of himself and Totti together on Instagram after last summer’s Trofeu Joan Gamper with the caption: “UN GRANDE !!! Qué fenómeno !!!”
His selflessness and sense of humour
A goodwill ambassador for UNICEF since 2003, Totti has taken his role seriously; from publishing a best-selling, and famously self-effacing, joke book to singing songs and recently playing an exhibition tennis match with Novak Djoković, the forward has been dedicated to the cause. Even the Messi shirt he received from Barcelona went to a charity auction rather than his personal collection.
Nor is he selfish when it comes to his own jersey. There would be justification for Roma retiring Totti’s No10 shirt when he eventually retires, yet the 58-times Italian international will not hear of it. “The No10 is like a second skin for me, but everybody should have a chance of wearing it and above all honouring it by achieving the highest possible goals,” he said when Roma fans grumbled about newly arrived 18-year-old Brazilian Gerson having the temerity to pose in a Roma No10 top last year.
He keeps on going
“I am 38 but I don’t feel it,” Totti told UEFA.com upon becoming the oldest goalscorer in UEFA Champions League history in 2014, three days after his 38th birthday. He turns 40 on 27 September and is still going strong.
Roma’s other notable one-club man Daniele De Rossi was nicknamed ‘Captain Future’ not long after his debut in 2001, since many felt he was Totti’s natural successor. Now, he is delighted he is still in the striker’s shadow. “As a boy, I was ecstatic just to see him play,” he said in 2015. “At 38, he still does amazing things on the pitch. I think I’m destined to be ‘Captain Future’ forever – he is the all-time captain.”
Even his penalties are special
From thunderous volleys from impossible angles to delicious lobs, Totti has registered so many great goals that naming a top five would be as difficult as selecting the best five monuments in the Eternal City. Totti even managed to make converting penalties look stylish – witness his Panenka chip against the Netherlands in the UEFA EURO 2000 semi-finals.”To take a penalty like that is such a game you must be crazy or really good,” he once said. “I don’t think I’m crazy.” Watch this backheeled effort in training.
His celebrations make every goal seem special
Despite scoring so many, Totti has never tired of celebrating these exploits, with derby goals against Lazio bringing out his creative side. In 2012, after notching from the penalty spot, the skipper famously took the place of a television cameraman to film the scenes of joy in the Curva Sud.
In 2015, he hit a wonderful volley on his 40th outing against Lazio, becoming the Derby della Capitale’s all-time top marksman, and promptly took a selfie with the Roma fans in the background. “I don’t usually take selfies but I broke an important record and wanted it to be a moment I would remember,” he explained. “It was a great goal – the photo was not as great, but it’s OK.”
When he overtook Roberto Baggio as Serie A’s leading active scorer with an effort in a 3-2 victory over Bari in May 2011, Totti whipped off his top to reveal a T-shirt bearing the slogan: “The king of Rome is not dead.” Five years on, the monarchy remains secure as ever.