Words by: Giovanni Dougall
They call him “The King of Rome”. It was 1989, and a fresh faced 13-year-old walked through the front doors of the Trigoria Sports Centre for the very first time and the rest, as they say, is history.
That 13-year-old was, of course, Francesco Totti – who was about to embark on an incredible journey by re-writing the history books of his beloved Roma. 26 years later, approaching his 40th birthday, few would have thought that Totti would still be going strong with his adored club. Close to making 600 appearances for the Giallorossi, Totti has found the net just shy of 300 times.
Undoubtedly one of the finest talents Italy has ever produced – despite his occasional controversies – Totti is part of a dying breed of one club players. A player who has remained loyal to club he’s loved all his life, throughout the various highs and lows.
Il ‘Capitano’ has shattered personal and club records however despite all his accolades and heroic status, Francesco Totti has only won one league title during his remarkable Roman career – in the 2000/01 season.
Roma’s bitter rivals Lazio had just won the 1999/00 Scudetto, which was enough to make any Giallorossifan go into hiding for the first summer of the new millennium. While Lazio celebrated their triumph, goading their city neighbours at every opportunity, Roma coach Fabio Capello was busy plotting payback.
Former president Franco Sensi invested heavily and Roma signed Boca Juniors’ rough and ready centre-half Walter Samuel for 40 Billion Lire. Samuel would fit into an already impressive defence which included Brazilian superstar Cafu, Aldair and French left back Vincent Candela. Roma weren’t short of goals either, with Vincenzo Montella, Marco Delvecchio and of course young captain Francesco Totti in attack. However Sensi and Capello wanted to ensure Scudetto success and they broke the bank, signing not only one of Serie A’s best, but one of the world’s best strikers in Fiorentina’s Gabriel Batistuta, a deal which was believed to be worth around 70 Billion Lire at the time.
Capello began to build his team around their 24-year-old captain. Totti was the focal point of an exciting new look Roma, and would find himself playing the trequartista role, behind new signing Gabriel Batistuta and Italian international Vincenzo Montella. Capello’s rationale was to try and get the best out of Totti’s creativity, using his incredible passing ability to feed the Lupi’s lethal front two. But the provider soon turned goal-scorer, setting the tone for the campaign by finding the net in their opening day victory over Bologna – a comfortable 2-0 win at the Olimpico.
Il ‘Capitano’ led Roma to the top of the table in the early rounds, chipping in with some important goals, including a spectacular left foot volley in a crucial 2-1 home win over Udinese – a victory that would be vital come the end of the season. Another Totti master class in January 2001 saw Roma crush Napoli 3-0 in the Derby del Sole. Now sitting pretty at the top of Serie A, the Roma faithful began to believe.
Totti was consistently putting in decisive performances and picking up weekly man of the match awards as Roma kept a comfortable distance over title rivals Juventus. As the title race came to a head, he was on the score sheet yet again, earning a 2-2 draw away to Napoli before going into the final game of the season against Parma at the Olimpico. Roma led Juve by two points and thus a win would secure the title for theLupi. It was an afternoon that would go down in history and etch Francesco Totti’s name in Roman history forever.