Totti is the ultimate one-club man and the epitome of a club legend. He’s never left A.S. Roma – not for the twinkle of the Premier League nor the challenge of another Italian side. Never one to make up the numbers, he has continued to prove his worth to the club writing stories usually reserved for Roy of the Rovers. He has scored in 23 straight Serie A seasons and turns 40 this month. Here’s six times he was an absolute top boy.
1. When he dinked a penalty in a Euro 2000 shootout
Chipped penalties aren’t necessarily cool. If they go wrong you look like a complete fool and they’re more common now than in days gone by. Back in the year 2000, however, we had just pioneer Antonin Paneka to reference (not counting Gary Linekar’s failed friendly attempt) and the idea of a dinked penalty was enough to make a manager strut nervously around their technical area. With Italy leading 2-0 in a Euro semi-final shootout against the Netherlands, Totti arrived at the spot with his usual swagger. Sporting a haircut only cool in Italian borders, he produced a memorable moment when nonchalantly arching the ball into the centre of the goalmouth and past a falling Edwin van der Sar. At the time it was amazing and, if we’re honest, it’s still cool now.
2. When we all laughed at him – for a good cause
Young Totti had the hair, the hairband, the adoration of the capital, a Scudetto and the cover of Italy’s edition of Fifa 2002. He played with flair and had plenty of friends both in and out of the game. It was easy to peg an unhealthy ego to his character but in the summer of 2003 he proved he was also a master of humorous self-deprecation – especially towards his intelligence. Working as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, Totti released a joke book of sorts following discussions with some national teammates. Every joke poked fun at Totti – “a journalist told Totti “Carpe Diem” to which he replied: “I’m sorry, I don’t speak English” – and the book sold at a rate far beyond expectation. Profits were split between homeless children in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a charity for the elderly in Rome. Top boy.
3. When he was ‘Scusate il Ritardo’
You’re sometimes left to wonder how long Totti has spent planning a celebration. Although, on the other hand, maybe he just makes sure he scores as soon as he has an idea. He was certainly on a schedule when ‘giving birth’ to a football in honour of his pregnant wife in 2005. She’s also been the subject of two lovey-dovey undershirt messages over the years. The other great relationship in Totti’s life is his one with the Roma fans. The 2012 season would ultimately see Totti score just eight league goals and end his extraordinary double-digit run. At the start of the winter break Totti had yet to score – something which could well have ruined his Christmas. On January 8th he launched a penalty into the top corner against Chievo before revealing a message which said ‘Scusate il Ritardo’ translating to ‘Sorry for the delay’. He looked genuinely apologetic but hasn’t stopped scoring since. The jury is still out as to whether Totti’s most recent celebration– taking a selfie with the fans – was cool or not. He’d just equalised in the Derby della Capitale, so it probably was.
4. When he chipped Julio Cesar
Returning to 2005 and long haired Totti, we find one of my favourite goals of all time. Roma would eventually finish second to Inter Milan, but won a great encounter 3-2 at the San Siro to get their season on track after a slow start. Roma stunned Inter by racing to a 3-0 first half lead with Totti scoring twice. His first was later voted Serie A goal of the season, delicately lofting the ball over Julio Cesar from outside the box following a mazy run across the pitch. Picking up the ball inside his own half, the Roma captain navigated past two lunging tackles into an area of space. With ease rather than electric pace, he first went wide before drifting into a central position. He proceeded to chip the ball from 20 yards perfectly lobbing a despairing Cesar.
5. When he scored a screamer against Sampdoria
There are plenty of gems hidden in European club football which don’t get the recognition they deserve. If Marco Van Basten’s angled volley is the pinnacle of first time hits, then Totti’s vs. Sampdoria can’t be far behind. Whilst the Dutchman’s had a certain marvel and near perfect connection, Totti’s had a typical coolness. The ball was floated over to the far side of the box where Totti had been lurking beyond the full back. He began to move towards its destination and met the pass with a swing of his left boot. The shot was hit hard, but with exquisite control, and arrowed towards the bottom corner beyond keeper Gianluca Berti. At first this goal may seem underwhelming – but consider how hard it would be to replicate. Totti went on to score 26 that campaign earning himself the Golden Boot. Sadly, Roma would finish second and Totti would collect the fourth of his eight Serie A runners-up medals.
6. When he proved he’s still got it.
Old Totti is probably even cooler than young Totti. As far back as 2011, people have been questioning ‘Il Re De Roma’, quick to point out any sign of diminishing effectiveness. He responded in 2011 by showing off a t-shirt (yes, another one) displaying the words ‘The King of Rome is not dead’ and a number of fine years would follow under managers Zdenek Zemen and Rudi Garcia. His greatest struggle undoubtedly came last season when a returning Luciano Spalletti relegated an injury-hit Totti to the subs bench. Spalletti, who was the first to install Totti as a centre forward in 2005, was more a pantomime villain than hater but a rumoured spat had soured the situation. Totti was left playing minutes rather than games but decided to write a new chapter in his career as the world’s greatest super-sub. It started in April, when he entered the fray against Torino in the 86th minute with Roma 2-1 down. 22 seconds later he had diverted a flick into the back of the net. A revitalized Roma were spurred on and the inevitable followed; they won an 89th minute penalty and Totti tucked it away.
Another classic from Totti’s joke book:
“Ilary (Totti’s wife): Honey, will you take me to dinner tonight?
Totti: I can’t, love, I’m doing this really difficult puzzle. It’s full of small pieces, and there’s a rooster on the box. Why don’t you come and help me?
Ilary: Francesco, leave those cornflakes alone and take me out to dinner”