Straight from the dark heart of Italy
In an age where loyalty can be bought at the opening of a transfer window, Francesco Totti has always resisted the call of the sirens.
As with Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Del Piero and Javier Zanetti the Roma captain has become synonyms with club he plays for.
Known as “bandiere”, no one can picture these loyal servants in any shirt other than the one they have worn for most, if not all of their careers. So there was some shock not just in Rome but throughout Italian football and beyond when Totti revealed he had been insulted by his own fans.
Apparently a group gathered outside the player’s home to voice their disappointment that the star had missed a penalty against Juventus on Monday evening. Totti has had his run-ins with Roma fans in the past, but obviously this time he was feeling particularly vulnerable and revealed that was contemplating leaving.
Talk about spoiling Christmas, picking as he did the moment during an interview with Sky Sports Italia at the club’s festive bash to drop the bombshell.
However, after a short period of thumb-sucking he cleared up any misunderstanding by reiterating his desire to see out the rest of his days at Roma, although that reassurance came with a veiled threat that he expected to be treated with more respect. But from who?
After all, he could have left on numerous occasions: Silvio Berlusconi made an offer he knew would be refused because as the AC Milan owner put it: “his heart is with Rome and you can never tear the heart away.”
Real Madrid would have not only provided him with riches beyond his wildest dreams but also a cabinet case full of trophies. He even admitted he had been tempted by the thought of a switch the Bernabeu, and you have to wonder how differently he would be perceived around Europe if he was now ending his days in the Spanish capital.
Instead, his remained committed to the city of his birth and a club that has had more downs than ups during his 19 years there. Now 35, he has won the league but once and the Italian Cup twice but throughout it all his name has always been cheered the loudest when the team is announced, which was the case on Monday evening as the fans then chanted their refrain: ‘Un capitano, c’è solo un capitano.’
This latest outburst comes after a year to forget for the veteran: Roma missed out on a Champions League place and then new American consortium led by Thomas Di Benedetto arrived to sweep away the old regime to which Totti was seen as closely associated with.
Former owners the Sensi family had promised him a say on club matters when he eventually retired, but Di Benedetto kept his distance for most of the summer. They only met briefly as the management staff began to take on a completely different shape.
Franco Baldini was brought back as sporting director and suggested that the No.10 concentrate on playing rather than concern himself with matters outside his remit, such as his attempt to woo Gigi Buffon to the club, which considering the fact the Italy keeper saved Totti’s penalty would have been a good idea.
Baldini’s supposed criticism was seen by many as originating from much higher up the hierarchy, and with Totti already grappling with new coach Luis Enrique he could not afford to alienate his new employers as well.
This little show of pique comes on the back of a difficult start to the campaign, where Enrique has attempted to impose his own style on the team, substituting the star man at some inappropriate times such as the last quarter of the Europa League qualifier against Slovan Bratislava when the outcome was in the balance. There is no doubt that Totti would have taken no joy from the subsequent elimination from the competition...
Niggling injuries and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding his role on the pitch – as well as off it when he finally calls it a day - seem to be the underlining factors in this latest moody episode, rather than what may or may not have been shouted in his direction by those with little to do with their time on a winter’s evening.
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