Time waits for no man, not even a Roman god

Francesco Totti is a national icon in Italy and while he was a talented and creative player, in truth he was never as brilliant as his national team counterparts Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero or Andrea Pirlo.

AS Roma v US Citta di Palermo - Serie A

Source: Getty Images

But he never claimed to be and this doesn’t diminish his outstanding record.

Every Azzurri fan is grateful for what he has done - and without him who knows what would have become of Roma.

Their elusive Serie A title, won in 2001 under Fabio Capello, remains the highlight for Roma's fans - they quote the date off by heart because it left such an indelible mark on their psyche.

Totti's recent falling out with coach Luciano Spalletti (which seems to have been patched up in public at least) came after Spalletti, in his second spell as Giallorossi coach, left Totti out of the starting team.

The 39-year-old, he of nearly 600 Serie A appearances and 244 goals, went very public with his frustration.

But he is still an icon.

A private dressing room at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome bears his name because of his enormous contribution to the club.

Totti has received recognition and respect for his perseverance, loyalty, high-work rate and hard work. He was even begrudgingly well respected in Australia, too, despite knocking Australia out of the 2006 FIFA World Cup with a last minute penalty in Kaiserslautern. 

But now the question must be asked - has he has reached a fork in the road of his career? Time waits for no one and Totti is no exception.

Totti loves the game and the game clearly loves him, but can love alone sustain his career further? And, more pertinently, do Roma still need him?

Before Spalletti arrived back on the bench a couple of months ago, Roma were in the doldrums. Under their likeable and charismatic French coach Rudy Garcia they had won just once in two months.

Garcia’s days were numbered and a mid-season change was inevitable.

Enter Spalletti and exit stage right Totti. Spalletti has history with Roma too. It’s not as long or illustrious as Totti’s, but in his five years there up to 2009 he achieved great things with the club.

The Serie A Scudetto narrowly eluded him twice, but he guided the team to respectable rounds in the UEFA Champions League and was even voted Serie A coach of the year in 2006.

Roma have won six straight in the league, but they have left their run too late for a tilt at the title. They will qualify for European football, but under Garcia, Roma had slipped out of the top half of the table.

Totti’s contribution to these six consecutive victories was zero and Spalletti seems to have won the PR war with supporters over his decision to leave the side’s historical golden boy on the sidelines.

Totti's legacy will never be questioned, it can’t be because he has given so much at the highest level.

However, he should not diminish it by staying around one season too long.

It is now time for Totti to sit down with Spalletti and Roma and work out the most dignified exit strategy.

The ball is in his court and he needs to control it one last time. Failure to do so only lets others control it. For a player of his legendary status this should not happen.

His destiny should be his alone to control. Let’s hope that Totti can see the inevitable too.

Francesco, grazie e arrivederci.

Joe Russo is a football writer for Australian-based Italian newspapers La Fiamma and Il Globo.

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4 min read
Published 3 March 2016 at 10:47am
By Joe Russo
Source: SBS