If this is, indeed, the end, this is not the way it was supposed to go. There will be no Scudetto, no European title, nor any trophies for AS Roma when the 2016-17 Serie A season concludes later this month. It will be reflected upon as another disappointing campaign in a long line of such in the “Eternal City.” Though the finale of Francesco Totti’s remarkable and unparalleled career might lack the Disney-like ending it deserves, it would, sadly, fit in line with the majority of disappointments he’s had to endure throughout his 25 seasons with the Giallorossi.
For all, but two years, of my life, “Totti” is a name that has graced the back of a Roma jersey at the Stadio Olimpico. His passion for his hometown organization has been well documented – none the least by his own hand. His refusals to accept more lucrative contracts at more prestigious clubs around the world, with the opportunity to chase multiple titles, are legendary. Despite winning the 2006 World Cup with Italy, in his 25 seasons with the club, Totti won a modest five titles – one Scudetto, two Coppa Italias, and two Supercoppa Italiana. However, he has suffered the disappointment of finishing as runner-up an astonishing 16 times – Roma is also second in Serie A this season.
He was never the greatest player during his career – his best Ballon d’Or finish was 5th in 2001. He was never the fastest or most eccentric either. However, he was, and still is, the most dedicated and persistent footballer of his generation. That quality, which often trumps all others, has earned him 17 individual records across football and propelled him to 307 goals in a record 783 matches across all club competitions.
That he amassed a cavalcade of individual accolades without an equivalent number of club ones should in no way be held against him. Roma has never had the spending power of other clubs, especially Juventus, AC Milan, and Inter Milan. That disparity has haunted them both domestically and internationally.
Lest you think Totti, at 40-years-old, is simply “along for the ride” – a marketing stunt meant to fill seats – it’s important to realize how crucial he’s been to the club. Just last year, “Il Capitano” single-handedly dragged Roma, kicking and screaming, into a Champions League qualification spot by scoring four goals and assisting on two others in Roma’s final five matches as they finished the season with a 17-match unbeaten streak. Sadly, they crashed out of the competition with an embarrassing pair of defeats to Porto in which Totti did not see the field.
There were rumors that Totti would not have his contract renewed after Luciano Spalletti was re-hired as manager in the middle of last season after an early spat saw him relegated to the bench for weeks. Some rumors were more farfetched than others – like him signing with the New York Cosmos. In the end, Totti and Roma did what everyone knew they would and agreed to a one-year extension with a five-year directorship SHOULD he retire after the 2016/17 season.
On Wednesday, Twitter was set aflame after Monchi, the club’s new sporting director, mentioned the details of his current contract. Immediately the internet was flooded with appreciation for the legend’s contributions to world soccer. Even well respected news outlets rushed to judgement. What wasn’t widely reported, however, is that, just last week, Totti said he feels he can play another season. The soccer world should hope the erroneous reports of his impending retirement remain erroneous, and that the man gets one last opportunity to ride into the sunset with the trophies he deserves.