The last of the true fantasisti made his Serie A debut 20 years ago today, and at 36 years of age, Francesco Totti is still going strong.
In completing his 20 year reign over the Italian capital today, the world of Calcio has come together to celebrate the man who’s the Eternal City’s real ruler (never mind the new Pope), presiding over his Giallorossi parish since 1993.
Current AS Roma captain, Francesco Totti, made his league debut for the club exactly 20 years ago today (1993), coming on as a substitute against Brescia. Fast-forward two decades, and not only has the fantasista led his home-town club to the Italian league and cup double, he’s attained living-legend status by celebrating his various records and achievements wearing only the colours of Roma; remaining that rare breed of superstar footballer in the modern game: a one-club man.
The CONI president (and head of Italian sport) Giovanni Malagò celebrated Totti’s loyalty by stating:
In an increasingly globalised society where the sports world is constantly changing, Totti, along with people like Maldini, Bergomi and Del Piero, are the embodiment of loyalty.
Totti, a Roman native who came up through the youth ranks, admitted to having almost left his beloved club twice during an immense career, when Sampdoria and Real Madrid came calling:
Had I gone to Genoa then I would never have come back to Roma. Then, before my penultimate renewal, I had decided to join Real Madrid. Then my contract and some personal issues pushed me to stay here. And I have never had any regrets about that.
Totti can have little regret in a career which has recently seen him become the second all-time highest goalscorer in Serie A, as well as winning the biggest trophy the sport has to offer – the 2006 World Cup. His coach during that time for the Azzurri, Marcelo Lippi, had this to say about Roma’s number 10:
Francesco is an extraordinary player and an extraordinary lad. I’m delighted that he’s achieved all these records. But what’s truly amazing is that when he talks about football he never mentions the day when he’s going to retire.
Indeed, retirement is something which Totti is not thinking about anytime soon, telling the Gazzetta dello Sport that he’s ready to sign a new contract when his current one expires:
Time has flown because I have done everything with passion. I hope that continues even if my contract will expire next season. I’m hoping in a renewal and I’ll speak directly to President James Pallotta about it next week when he arrives.
Of all the well-wishes hailing Totti’s achievement so far this week, perhaps most touching came from current Juventus goalkeeper, Gigi Buffon, who sent this open letter to his close friend:
Dear Francesco, you’ve written Italian footballing history: 20 years in Serie A. What an achievement! My very best wishes. I can still remember your first goal, Roma against Foggia. We’re friends, you know how fond of you I am.
We started out together in the Under-15s and spent many wonderful years together playing for Italy. We keep meeting on the pitch in Serie A, where – as the top player you are – you’ve often forgotten about our friendship (10 times actually, that’s how often you’ve put the ball past me). Then at the final whistle it’s all smiles again, like when I feared you would try your ‘cucchiaio’ [chip] on me and then I saved your penalty. Afterwards I felt sorry that it was you.
We’re part of a lucky generation: it’s true that after the age of 30 every season feels like seven but you seem to be turning time backwards instead of ageing. You’ve written footballing history with the present and the near future, a player whose talent is indisputable. And in my eyes you’ll always be an Azzurro.
Your friend, Gigi.