In Football, a club legend can be born in various ways but when a certain local lad with dreams in his eyes joins the academy of his dream club and spends the next 28 years of his life there, he surely can be called more than a legend for that particular club. We are talking about Francesco Totti and the folklore of him at his dream club AS Roma.
He redefined the term Loyalty and stayed in Rome when the club needed him the most even after being offered all the luxuries from the top European clubs. Francesco Totti was the watchful protector for 28 years of the Red side of the Italian capital Rome. We’ll look back on the career of a true modern-day Roman Gladiator.
Childhood and Youth Career
Francesco Totti, born on 27th September 1976 in the Porta Metronia neighborhood in the Italian capital Rome. During childhood, he often used to play football with boys much older than him and he idolized former Roma captain Giuseppe Giannini.
At the age of 8, he joined the youth academy of Fortitudo Luditor and moved to SMIT Trastevere in 1984 and then to Lodigiani in 1986 before joining his dream club AS Roma in 1989. His mother Fiorella refused a lucrative offer from MIian to fulfill his son’s wish to move to the Roman side.
Professional Career: Birth of a Legend
After playing for the youth team of Roma for three years, Totti finally made it to the senior side in 1992 under the guidance of manager Vujadin Boškov. He made his Serie A debut at the tender age of 16. In the following season under Carlo Mazzone, Totti began to play more regularly as a second striker and scored his first goal on 4 September 1994 in a 1–1 draw against Foggia. By 1995, Francesco Totti had become a regular in Roma’s starting line-up and scored 16 goals during the next three seasons.
Since 1997 he started to show maturity, responsibility both on and off the field. Slowly he was becoming a symbol of the club and a deserving candidate to lead the Roman club. All the speculations proved right when he officially became the club captain at the age of 22 making him the youngest club captain ever in Serie A. Then Roma manager Zdeněk Zeman guided him to reach the next level in his career.
He scored his first-ever goal in Derby Della Capitale against cross-city rivals Lazio on 29 November 1998. Francesco Totti scored 30 goals and provided 26 assists during Zeman’s two-year managerial stint. For his gargantuan performances, he was named the Serie A Young Footballer of the Year for the 1998–99 season.
In 1999, Roma’s then-president Franco Sensi sacked Zeman and signed Fabio Capello as a replacement, with the aim of winning the league title. Capello was building a competitive side around Totti and used him as a creative playmaker throughout the 2000-01 season. Francesco Totti played scored decisive goals against the likes of Udinese and Napoli to keep his side at the top of the table after the first half of the season.
Totti continued to play the pivotal role during the second half of the season as well to maintain the lead at the top over their rivals Juventus. On 17 June 2001, at the Stadio Olimpico, Roma beat Parma 3–1, with their three main attackers, Totti, Vincenzo Montella, and Gabriel Batistuta scoring one goal each, as Roma won the Scudetto (Italian League title) for the third time in their history.
Francesco Totti was named the Serie A Italian Footballer of the Year for both 2000 and 2001 and won the Serie A Footballer of the Year Award for the first time in his career in 2000. He received his first Ballon d’Or nomination in 2000, finishing 14th in voting, and fifth the following year. Due to his performances and leadership, Totti had established himself as a hero to the Roma fans, who were also able to identify with his background as a Roma native and lifelong supporter.
From the 2004-05 season, Roma started to decline from the zenith of Italian football and saw many players leaving and several managerial changes. But Totti remained constant for the Giallorossi and inherited the role of center-forward since then. Roma dropped to the second tier club competition of Europe, the Europa League in the 2008-09 season. Roma failed to show consistency in the following seasons as well which resulted in failing to qualify for any European Competitions in 15 years in 2012-13.
In 2015 Francesco Totti scored both the goals in Roma’s 2-2 draw in Derby Della Capitale against Lazio and became the highest goalscorer in the history of that fixture with 11 goals. To top it off he pulled out and iconic ‘Selfie’ celebration with the Roma fans after scoring his second goal.
Since 2015, Francesco Totti mainly played as a super-sub for his club. He scored his 300th career club goal in all competitions with Roma in a 2–2 home draw with Sassuolo, on 20 September 2015. On 26 September 2015, the day before his 39th birthday, he sustained an injury, straining his right hip flexor in a 5–1 win over Carpi, ruling him out for three months. He returned to the pitch as a substitute in a 1–1 home draw against Milan, on 9 January 2016, equalling Gianluca Pagliuca as the third all-time highest appearance holder in Serie A history, with 592 appearances.
On 1 February 2017, Totti scored a decisive injury-time penalty in the 97th minute of a 2–1 home victory against Cesena in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals; the win enabled Roma to advance to the semi-finals of the tournament, and apparently, that was his 307th and final goal for the Giallorossi. On 15 April, he came on as a substitute in a 1–1 home draw against Atalanta to make his 615th appearance in Serie A, equalling Javier Zanetti as the joint third-highest appearance holder of all time in Serie A.
On 28 May, Totti made his final appearance for Roma in a 3–2 home win against Genoa, coming on as a substitute for Mohamed Salah in the 54th minute and received a standing ovation from the fans. After the game, he waved to the Giallorossi fans for the final time as a player with teary eyes and an emotional speech. After 28 years Francesco Totti left Roma as the record goalscorer in their history as well as record appearance maker in the club’s history.
After starring with the Azzurrini in Italy’s under-16, under-19, and under-21 sides, Totti earned his first senior cap for Italy under the recently appointed international manager Dino Zoff during a 2–0 Euro 2000 qualifying victory against Switzerland on 10 October 1998. Totti scored his first goal for Italy on 26 April 2000 in a 2–0 friendly win over Portugal in Reggio Calabria.
Italy went to Euro 2000 with an in form Francesco Totti. Overall, he scored two goals and provided an assist during the tournament. His first goal of the tournament came against co-host nation Belgium in the first round, as Totti headed in Demetrio Albertini‘s cross from a set-piece; he was named man of the match for his performance. His second goal of the tournament came against Romania in the quarter-finals, with an accurate strike following Stefano Fiore’s assist. In Italy’s semi-final shootout victory over co-hosts the Netherlands, Totti’s confidently chipped penalty was named as one of the “magic moments” of the tournament. Though Italy lost to reigning World Cup Champions France 2–1 in extra time in the final, Francesco Totti was named the man of the match, and he started the play which led to Marco Delvecchio‘s opening goal; Totti sent an unmarked Gianluca Pessotto down the right-wing with a back-heel pass, allowing him space to cross the ball into the area, where it was put into the net by Delvecchio.
After being handed the number 10 shirt and Italy’s playmaking duties, much was expected of Totti in his debut World Cup under manager Giovanni Trapattoni. But his performance didn’t fulfill the expectations of his nation and much criticism followed when he was sent off in Italy’s controversial second-round defeat to co-hosts South Korea. Totti only made 2 assists in the whole competition setting up goals both the time for Christian Vieri in a group game and in their match against South Korea in the second round. Although he was once again expected to be Italy’s star player in the number 10 role, Francesco Totti acquired a measure of infamy at Euro 2004 after he spat at Danish midfielder Christian Poulsen in a goalless draw in Italy’s opening group match of the tournament on 14 June 2004. He was subsequently banned until the semi-final which was meant to be his last appearance in the competition after his nation failed to make it to the semi-final.
Despite the injury crisis, Totti recovered in time to join the national team for their victorious 2006 World Cup campaign, despite a lack of match fitness during his three months on the sidelines. Italy manager Marcello Lippi showed enormous faith in Totti, assuring him during his rehabilitation that he’s a spot in Italy’s World Cup squad was secured and to focus on recuperating. This encouragement fueled Totti’s desire to work even harder to overcome what could have been a career-ending injury and make it to the World Cup against all odds.
Francesco Totti set up Pirlo’s goal from a short corner in Italy’s opening 2–0 win against Ghana, Marco Materazzi‘s goal from a corner in Italy’s final group match, a 2–0 win against the Czech Republic, and two goals in a 3–0 win against Ukraine in the quarter-finals: the opener by Gianluca Zambrotta, and one of Luca Toni‘s goals. Totti also scored a goal via an injury-time penalty in Italy’s 1–0 round of 16 wins over Australia on 26 June and was involved in Del Piero‘s iconic last-minute extra-time goal in the semi-final, which sealed a 2–0 victory for the Italians over hosts Germany, and a place in the World Cup final. Throughout the competition, Totti completed 185 passes and took 19 shots; in recognition of a successful tournament, he was selected for the 23-man All-Star Team. After 8 years with the ‘Azzurri’s’, Totti intended to retire from international football after the 2006 World Cup, but reneged on his decision and remained undecided on his future for over a year, not being called up in the meantime. But due to continued physical illness, he made his retirement official on 20 July 2007.
Life outside Football
Totti’s wife, Ilary Blasi, is a former showgirl who has been a co-host of Italia 1’s hit show Le Iene since 2007. When the couple married on 19 June 2005 at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, their wedding was aired on television with the proceeds being donated to charity. They had their first child, Cristian, on 6 November 2005. Their second child, a daughter named Chanel, was born on 13 May 2007. The couple has often been referred to as the “Italian Beckhams” and their private lives are often speculated upon in Italian magazines and tabloids. On 10 March 2016, the couple gave birth to their third child, Isabel. Totti is a Roman Catholic by religious beliefs.
Totti’s brother Riccardo serves as his agent and manages many of his brand and business interests, under the name Number Ten, including the Francesco Totti Academy, a football training school, and the Totti Soccer School, a football camp for children with disabilities. Totti also owns a motorcycle racing team called Totti Top Sport.
In May 2010, Totti appeared alongside actor Russell Crowe in Rome to promote the special edition of the film Gladiator, celebrating the tenth year of the film’s release. In December 2014, two murals of Totti, sponsored by Nike, were created in Rome. We wish him a very happy birthday and best of luck for his retirement life.
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