As part of a new series, we use the power of photography to tell the stories of the greatest and most influential footballers in the world. There’s no better way to start the series off than to begin with the footballing emperor of Rome – Francesco Totti.

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1993. A 16-year-old Totti on the bench for Roma. In a few hours time, he will make his debut away at Brescia. The date is March 28, 1993 and signals the birth of Roma’s greatest ever player’s first-team career at the club.

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A young Totti carrying cones at Roma’s training ground. He hardly has to do this now.

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1994. The first goal. Totti notches his first goal for his beloved Roma on September 4th in a 1-1 draw against Foggia.

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The youngster took a few years to fully settle into the side, but after he did he emerged as a key man. Under coaches like Carlo Mazzone, Carlos Bianchi and Nils Liedholm Totti would gain valuable game time and by the time Zdenek Zeman was appointed, the Romanista was the best player in the team. The Roma-fans obviously quickly took to their homegrown hero, and Totti’s career flourished under the Czech coach.

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As his influence at Roma grew, Totti was also picked for the national team. At the 2000 Euro’s, Italy faced the host nation Holland in the semi-finals. The game went to penalties, and Totti did this. European championships semi-final. Against Holland. In Holland. Against Edwin van der Sar. Of course, it had to be a chip. Italy won but lost the final in extra-time to France.

Totti-Scudetto2001. The Scudetto goal. Although Totti’s form was good, Roma wanted trophies and replaced Zeman. Fabio Capello came in for the 2000/01 season. In his first season the team, spearheaded by the brilliant trio of Totti, Vincenzo Montella and Gabriel Batistuta, won the Scudetto. All three stars scored in the title decider against Parma, and captain Totti’s passion cannot be mistaken.

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After leading Roma to a long-awaited Scudetto, Totti was no longer merely a hero or role model. He was elevated into a talismanic presence at the club, the fans’ own voice on the pitch. An incredible bond was created, which made sure there was never a lure for Totti to go elsewhere even though the trophies dried out. He had what he needed and wanted, the love of ‘his’ people.

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2006. Despite the promise at Euro 2000, Totti had failed in the 2002 World Cup (sent-off) and Euro 2004 (suspended after spitting at Christian Poulsen). Therefore he had something to prove at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. In the wake of the Calciopoli scandal in Italy, Totti and his teammates went into the tournament relieved of pressure. The easily navigated themselves out of their group, but ran into trouble in the last-16 against Australia. As the game entered stoppage time the score was still 0-0. Then, Fabio Grosso tumbled over Lucas Neill and the left-back was awarded a penalty. There was only one man to take it. Totti. 1-0. Italy through.

Italian midfielder Francesco Totti kisse

2006. A few games later, a successful penalty shootout win over France meant Italy were world champions for the fourth time. Francesco Totti was on top of the world.

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Campeone del Mundo.

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Fellow Romanista Daniele De Rossi also played in the World Cup final with Totti.

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Totti’s strong World Cup form was taken into the following club season. Under coach Luciano Spalletti, Totti was given an almost free role up front for Roma. With plenty of players running around and past him, he enjoyed his best-ever season in front of goal. An exciting Roma side saw their talismanic captain score 32 goals in all competitions. 26 of those came in the Serie A, where Roma finished second, which meant Totti claimed the title of Capocannoniere in Italy and the Golden Shoe as Europe’s best goalscorer.

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Totti’s terrific season culminated with Roma lifting the 2006/07 Coppa Italia after beating Inter 7-4 on aggregate in the final.

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Totti has produced some of the most iconic celebrations Italian football has seen. The most common is this one. Sucking his thumb, a celebration for his wife Ilary and his kids.

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Here, after scoring against Lazio in a 2004 ‘derbi della capitale’, Totti took control of one of the stadiums cameras and swivelled it around the ground.

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And of course, in 2015, Totti celebrated the second of his goals against Lazio, who had been 2-0 up prior to Totti’s goals, by taking a selfie with the Roma curva. Incredible scenes at the Olimpico.

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He’s always been loved immensely by his fans, and the love has been just as great the other way around. Totti is Rome, Rome is Roma and Roma is Totti.

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In September 2014, Totti became the oldest goalscorer in Champions League history at 38 years and three days old. The goal? A nice little dinked chip over the City goalkeeper Joe Hart.

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In May 2016, Totti made his 600th appearance for his Roma. He was celebrated like the immortal hero he remains in Rome, and a very strong end to the season ensured a new contract extension which will see Totti play one last season at the club he’s always loved. A remarkable career will last one more campaign, so let’s all enjoy it.

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So loved is Totti in Rome that he’s become street art and he will never be forgotten. For years to come, Romans will be told the story of their son, the story of Francesco Totti. It’s a love story more than anything else, one of the greatest footballers in modern time who decided to play at his beloved hometown club for his entire career despite the fact this made it more difficult for him to win the trophies his quality deserved. You get the feeling Totti has never regretted his decision and, with that knowledge, it makes him an even greater man.

Francesco Totti is AS Roma and AS Roma is Francesco Totti. Let’s enjoy it for one more year.

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