Straight from the dark heart of Italy
We all get the blues now and again, but Francesco Totti is in a right old January funk.
Four minutes was all it took for the moody Roman to fall out of love with 2011. Four minutes was all Claudio Ranieri deemed the veteran should spend on the pitch last weekend at Sampdoria.
The fact that those four minutes were the amount of time added at the end of a game AS Roma were trailing 2-1, left Totti in a right state of agitation to say the least.
As he climbed the steps of the club bus outside the Marassi stadium, he asked in jest, “Has the game started.” The journalists lapped the comment up but Ranieri, who was in ear-shot, was all daggers and once again gloom descended over Roma’s training ground at Trigoria.
In fact, Totti claimed that he has been feeling a little down on every occasion he turns up for training and a lot happier when he jumps in his motor and back out the gates again.
His life seems to be imitating art at the moment, as he acts out a similar scene of making a quick exit in an ad for an international mobile phone company with the tagline “Life is Now” which should really be along the lines of “Live your Life”.
Unfortunately with time running out on his career, the 34-year-old seems to be doing anything but living his life and his attitude has left something of a toxic atmosphere in the camp.
Ranieri has been involved in a power struggle with the man who is seen as Mr.Roma – and one he seems to have won, with the club siding more or less with the coach.
Rosella Sensi is hanging in there as president until a new buyer comes along, and the way things are going she could be there for quite some time, although she did little to placate her unhappy star.
“There is a reason there is competition for places in the team and that is to motivate players,” was her carefully worded statement on Tuesday. “Those who love the shirt have to be ready to give a professional response when called upon.”
Of course, it doesn’t take much to read between the lines and gather that she expects Totti to knuckle down and accept he is no longer the first name on the team sheet – and that she may well call his bluff on the No.10’s threat to leave.
This season a number of fading Serie A stars have been left warming the bench: Ronaldinho could not hack it at AC Milan, where he also suffered what he felt was the indignity of four minutes against Sampdoria back in November – and from that moment with his humiliation further compounded by Massimiliano Allegri’s assertion that the former world player of the year was very much on the margins, Dinho’s time was up although he never made any of his dissatisfaction public.
Alessandro Del Piero had to kick his heels in his quest to equal the Juventus goalscoring record until the final minutes of the match against Lecce in which he came off the bench with the Old Lady cruising at 2-0.
Del Piero has since surpassed Giampiero Boniperti’s 178-goal record and, along the way, accepted he can still be a team leader without stepping on to the pitch from the first minute – and when called upon - for example in the Italian Cup and Europa League - offer guidance to the future generation of Bianconeri players including Boniperti’s grandson Filippo.
Gigi Buffon has had to wait for his return to action such has been the good form shown by Marco Storari, despite Juve conceding seven goals in the last two games. But he has demonstrated respect for his team-mates by refusing to demand his starting berth back.
Clarence Seedorf left the pitch on Sunday with the jeers of the AC Milan fans ringing in his ears after the midfielder’s mistake gifted Udinese a goal in their incredible 4-4 draw, but the Dutchman came out to face the press and admit that the fans were right to vent their anger with him.
Of course, all stars will rally against the fading of the light, but Totti for one should look to the example set by some of his peers when things are not going his way, otherwise we risks tarnishing his reputation once and for all.
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