Francesco Totti is one of the most talented footballers the world has seen in the last two decades. His excellent technique and tremendous football intelligence has seen him help Italy win the World Cup in 2006, as well as Totti himself winning the European Golden Shoe in 2007 as the best goal scorer in Europe, Serie A Footballer of the Year on two occasions (2000 and 2003), Italian footballer of the year on five (2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2007) and being elected in the All Star Team in both the 2006 World Cup and the 2000 European Championships. Totti is also the Serie A’s second all time scorer 234 goals. In total, Er Pupone has scored 289 goals in his 704 appearances for the club.
The one thing that has been missing from his remarkable career though, is success with his club, AS Roma. Totti has shown an incredible amount of loyalty to his home-town club and stayed there his entire career. The only trophies the club has won in his 22 years in the first team is two Coppa Italia’s (in 2007 and 2008), two Supercoppa Italiana (in 2001 and 2007) and of course, one Scudetto (the Italian league title) in 2000/01. Although an okay return for a good player, it is nowhere near the trophy haul the Roma legend deserves. Totti has on multiple occasions had the chance to move on to clubs with a lot more success, namely Manchester United and Real Madrid, but has never even been near a move. The loyalty shown to their clubs by the likes of Paulo Maldini, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Iker Casillas is admirable, but they have played at clubs that always have been successful. That isn’t the case with AS Roma. So, the performances of Roma this season is very deserving for their best ever player.
What has happened this year in the Eternal City is nothing short of remarkable. In 2012/13, Roma finished sixth, a massive 25 points behind Juventus. This season, with three games left, Roma has collected 85 points (their record points tally), just two points less than Juventus won last year. In 2010, Roma pushed Inter all the way for the title, but since then they haven’t finished higher than sixth. So, the dramatic rise that new manager Rudi Garcia has overseen this season is very promising for the future.
When appointed, Garcia set out signing players. Dutch midfielder Kevin Strootman, Moroccan centre-back Mehdi Benatia, Serbian forward Adem Ljajic, Brazilian full-back Maicon, Italian goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis and striker Mattia Destro joined alongside Ivorian forward Gervinho from Arsenal. Added to the likes of Totti, Daniele De Rossi, Miralem Pjanic and Alessandro Florenzi the squad was significantly stronger than the previous year.
The signings of Benatia and Strootman, in particular, has proven to be very shrewd business. The defence has been Roma’s biggest strength this season with only 19 goals conceded in the league. Benatia has arguably been the stand-out centre-back in Europe and is attracting interest from some of the biggest clubs in the world. Together with Leandro Castan he’s created an impressive partnership at the heart of defence. In Garcia’s 4-3-3, the midfield is extremely important. Kevin Strootman has developed in to one of the best midfielders in Europe, and alongside the excellent holding midfield controller Daniele De Rossi and the creativity provided by Miralem Pjanic, the box-to-box Dutchman has helped create the best midfield in the Serie A. De Rossi is, like Totti, a loyal one-club man who has been one of Europe’s leading midfielders for years and has this season been fantastic.
In attack, the genius of Totti has been complemented by the trickiness of Adem Ljajic and the pace of Gervinho. When Totti has been out with injuries, Mattia Destro has coped admirably and is the club’s top scorer. It’s also been an successful season for Totti, with the Italian netting seven goals and getting 10 assists. On average, Il Capitano creates 2,61 chances per game (as per Squawka.com), an impressive number for the legend.
All in all, it makes for a successful season for Roma, with the club returning to the Champions League next season. At the time of writing the club lies second with 85 points, 16 clear of Napoli in third but still eight behind champions-elect Juventus. Roma’s revival has meant a long awaited title race for their talismanic captain, and without Juventus relentless march towards the title (on course for a new Serie A points total record), Francesco Totti would have another Scudetto to add to his trophy cabinet. It won’t come this season, but given the longevity and the obvious class the captain still possesses combined with the improvement in the club’s performances this season, maybe 2014/15 will be the year he once again lifts that trophy.