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Football: King of Rome bowing out with a heavy heart

Francesco Totti will bid farewell to Roma fans for good when his side play Genoa in their final Serie A game of the season on May 28.
Francesco Totti will bid farewell to Roma fans for good when his side play Genoa in their final Serie A game of the season on May 28.PHOTO: EPA

ALGHERO (Italy) • For a player who has singularly come to represent Italian Serie A giants Roma for nearly a quarter of a century, Francesco Totti deserved to feel heartbroken last Wednesday upon hearing his playing career would soon be over.

"It's the day that he hoped would never arrive," a friend of the 40-year-old was quoted as saying by Gazzetta dello Sport.

Yet, for the "Re di Roma" (King of Rome) - who led the club to the 2001 Scudetto and eight runner-up places - the end of a storied career that has wowed fans, peers and rivals the world over for the best part of 25 years has been fast approaching.

The forward has been reduced to sporadic substitute appearances in the last two seasons. Yet the announcement by Roma's new sporting director Monchi that he will finally hang up his boots on May 28 when Roma host Genoa at the Olympic stadium caused ripples.

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Especially as Totti, after playing a largely forgettable final 19 minutes in a 3-1 derby defeat by Lazio on April 30, appeared to remain defiant. He reacted as if he was pushing painful thoughts of retirement to the back of his mind when he was asked if he had just played his final derby: "That's what everyone else says. I'm saying nothing."

With 15 largely cameo appearances so far this campaign, the ageing club icon had lost all hope of prolonging his career and trying to overtake Silvio Piola's all-time record of 274 Serie A goals.

RUING RETIREMENT

It's the day that he hoped would never arrive.

A FRIEND OF FRANCESCO TOTTI'S , on the Italian forward's reluctance to retire.

Ahead of Roma's final four games of the season, Totti has scored 250 in 616 Serie A appearances.

According to Gazzetta, he has already signed a six-year deal as a Roma director that will "guarantee him a salary" although doubts remain over his potential future role.

Monchi, though, indicated he expects Roma's favourite son to play a key role.

"On Totti, I can say that I arrived one week ago and there was already an existing agreement between him and the club that it would be his final season as a player, because for next season he already has a management contract," said Monchi.

"Now, we'll look to the future and I hope Francesco will be as close to me as possible so he can teach me everything I need to know about Roma. Because he is Roma.

"If I can learn just 1 per cent of what Totti knows, then I will be a very lucky person."

Former Sevilla goalkeeper Monchi, whose full name is Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo, won nine major honours during an unprecedented spell of success with the Spanish club from 1990 to 1999.

After retiring as a player, he worked behind the scenes helping Sevilla win the Europa League a record five times, the King's Cup twice and both the Spanish Super Cup and European Super Cup once.

As a player, Totti's trophy cabinet is comparatively bare - as well as the 2001 Serie A title, he helped Roma win the Italian Cup in 2007 and 2009 and two Italian Super Cups (2001, 2007).

As a member of Marcello Lippi's Italy squad at the 2006 World Cup, Totti, with the Italian flag draped over his head, got to hold the World Cup trophy aloft after playing 61 minutes of a controversial final win over France.

Famously, he turned down the chance to move to Real Madrid in 2004, saying: "If I'd gone to Real Madrid I could have won Champions League titles and many other accolades. But I prefer what I'm doing now."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 08, 2017, with the headline 'King of Rome bowing out with a heavy heart'. Print Edition | Subscribe