Milan: Roma captain Francesco Totti claims his long career in Italy’s top flight had “flown by” as he celebrated 20 goal-laden years of playing in Serie A on Thursday.
But the Giallorossi icon, who last week scored his 226th league goal to move to second in the league’s all-time scoring charts behind Silvio Piola, says he’s not ready to hang up his boots just yet.
“I want a new deal,” Totti told Gazzetta dello Sport, which in Thursday’s edition splashed its front cover with a huge photo of the Roma captain under the headline Tutto Totti (everything about Totti).
“Time has flown by because everything I’ve done, I’ve done it with passion,” he added.
Despite the relative lack of domestic title glory — the Giallorossi have won only one scudetto (2001) in Totti’s incredible 20-year spell with the club — the 36-year-old will go down as one of Italian football’s greats.
As tributes poured in this week, one of the most poignant came from old friend and current rival Gianluigi Buffon, the goalkeeper of Juventus.
“Dear Francesco, you’ve made Italian football history: 20 years in Serie A, what a goal. Congratulations,” said Buffon.
After his parents rejected a lucrative offer from AC Milan, the man known variously as Il Bimbo d’Oro (The Golden Boy), Il Re di Roma (The King of Rome), and Il Gladiatore (The Gladiator), made his Roma debut on March 28, 1993 in a 2-0 win away to Brescia.
“You never forget your first time in a love story… That day at the Stadio Rigamonti in March was a dream come true for me,” he told www.asroma.it.
Totti’s reputation as one of Serie A’s deadliest goalscorers is perhaps boosted by the fact his feats came despite playing in several positions, and in a team lacking the tools to challenge consistently for top honours.
Starting out as a striker, he was pushed out on to the left wing as part of a 4-3-3 formation by Zdenek Zeman in 1997-98.
Zeman made Totti his captain and he replied by scoring 30 goals in the Czech’s two-year spell at the club.
Although he missed the 1998 World Cup in France, Totti was named Serie A’s best young footballer in 1999. But the best was yet to come.
When Fabio Capello arrived for the 2000-01 season, he built his team around Totti, this time in a trequartista (attacking midfielder) role. Totti scored 13 goals that season as Roma won only their third Scudetto.
Although named Italy’s footballer of the year in 2000 and 2001, Totti would never win the prestigious Ballon d’Or, awarded to Europe’s top player — something he blamed on Italy losing the Euro 2000 final to France.
Playing as the second striker in Capello’s 3-5-2 formation in 2003-2004, Totti scored a then career-high 20 goals for a season as Roma finished runners-up to Milan.
That summer, however, was one to forget for Totti as he was banned for spitting at Danish midfielder Christian Poulsen during Euro 2004.
When Capello left for Juventus, Roma endured a tumultuous 2004-2005 but Totti still managed his 100th Serie A goal.
When Luciano Spalletti succeeded Capello, Totti was moved back to a lone striker role and he returned 15 goals in 24 games.
A fractured shin and ligament damage threatened his 2006 World Cup place but Totti repaid coach Marcello Lippi’s faith with some solid performances, despite still having metal plates in his ankle, as Italy avenged their Euro 2000 defeat to France.
The following season he finished as Serie A’s top scorer (26 goals) and in November 2009 he signed a five-year deal which will end next season.
Totti still trails Piola by 49 goals but feels a more consistent position in his career would have taken him beyond that mark.
“If I had always played as a striker, I would have 300 goals by now,” he said.
Unsurprisingly, Totti’s talent and longevity — as well as his solid season so far — have not escaped the eye of Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, who is said to be considering him for the 2014 World Cup.
Totti is keeping his options open.
“A lot can happen in a year,” he said. “But if I’m going well then I will speak with Prandelli and together we’ll make a decision.”