Who Is Francesco Totti - The Roma Legend
Updated: Dec 12, 2020
Who Is Francesco Totti
Francesco Totti was born in Rome, one of two sons to parents Lorenzo and Fiorella Totti. He grew up in the neighbourhood of Porta Metronia. As a child, he idolised ex-Roma captain Giuseppe Giannini and tried to emulate him as he played football with older boys. At 8 years old, he joined the Fortitudo youth team, before moving on to SMIT Trastevere and Lodigiani. However, when his talents drew the attention of Milan scouts, his mother refused their lucrative offer, wanting to keep him close to home instead. Following this, his youth club agreed to sell Totti to the Lazio youth side. However, one of Roma’s youth coaches, Gildo Giannini, persuaded his parents to let him join the Roma youth squad instead.
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Totti joined the Roma youth squad in 1989, and just three years later, he made his first appearance for Roma’s senior side in Serie A at 16 years old. His 1993 debut game against Brescia ended in a 2-0 victory. By 1995, Totti had become a regular starter in Roma’s line up, scoring 16 goals over the next 3 seasons while creating several more. Totti’s immense talent was obvious to manager Carlo Mazzone, and after several promising seasons, he was expected to play a prominent role in the team’s gameplay. But following the firing of Mazzone, the team underperformed during the 1996/97 season and Totti was not given much playing time under new manager Carlos Bianchi. Totti and Bianchi’s relationship was so strained, that Totti was set to leave for Sampdoria on loan in 1997. However, also cognisant of his talents, Roma’s chairman at the time, Franco Sensi impeded the transfer.
Under yet another new manager, Zdeněk Zeman, Totti went through his first major transformation as a player. He took on a new position, proving to be compatible on the left wing as he took on defenders in one-on-one situations. He consistently used his new positioning to his advantage as he cut into the centre to shoot goals with his stronger foot.
He physically and mentally matured as he became more powerful, fit, hard-working, and a generally more well-rounded player. His breakthrough season with the club reflected his hard work as he reached double figures in goals scored for the first time in his career. He scored a total of 13 goals in Serie A, contributing massively to Roma’s fourth place league finish that year. His prowess on the field saw him award the Guerin d’Oro in the 1997/98 season, as he was recognised for having achieved the highest average rating of any Serie A player.
In the following season, his consistently impressive performances earned him recognition as a club symbol and leader. So, in 1998, Totti was made the team’s official captain at just 22 – making him the youngest Serie A club captain. He was also named the Serie A Young Footballer of the Year in the 1998/99 season.
Totti became so integral to the team’s success, that in the 2000/01 season, Roma’s competitive team and gameplay was built around him. His passing skills and playmaking abilities meant that he was used as a creative attacking midfielder in a 3-4-1-2 formation. Totti’s goal scoring prowess kept his team winning throughout the season, and they finished the first half of the league season in first place. With Totti spearheading the team’s success, they overtook rivals Juventus and were crowned the champions of Italy for the third time in their history. Totti finished the season on a personal high, having scored 13 goals – equalling his goal scoring record in a single Serie A season.
After such a strong season, Totti’s accolades were countless: he won his first Supercoppa Italiana; was named the Serie A Italian Footballer of the Year for both 2000 and 2001, and won his first Serie A Footballer of the Year Award in 2000. He received his first Ballon d’Or nomination in 2000. He had rightfully established himself as a hero to Roma fans, who were endeared to his background as a Roma native and his lifelong loyalty and support for the team.
In 2002, Totti scored the only goal – which also happened to be the winning goal – in a match against Real Madrid. This was the first time in 35 years that an Italian team had won a match in Madrid, bringing yet more pride to Roma fans. Despite his skills, the team finished third place in their Champions League group, and 8th in Serie A, though they did secure a place in the 2003 Coppa Italia finals. It is no surprise that Totti was awarded his second Serie A Footballer of the Year Award in 2003. In the 2003/04, true to form, Totti helped his team to secure 2nd place in the Scudetto race, beating his personal record with 20 goals and winning his second Guerin d’Oro as the player with the best average rating in Serie A throughout the season. He later went on to become Roma’s all-time leading scorer in Serie A.
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Totti was named the Serie A Italian Footballer of the Year in 2008 – the fifth time he had received the honour during his career – but unfortunately suffered a season-ending injury to his right knee in April. Having torn his ACL, he was forced off the pitch for 4 months. When Roma won their ninth Coppa Italia that season, though Totti could not play, he lifted the cup as the team’s captain. This win made Totti the most successful captain in the club’s history, and in 2009, he further became Roma’s all-time highest goal scorers and one of the top ten goal scorers in Serie A history.
At the end of 2009, Totti signed a new five-year playing contract, extending his tenure with the club until 2014. This could only be good news for the team, as they became the only challengers for the league title against Inter Milan that season, with a 24-match winning streak. Despite several injuries, Totti surpassed former prolific strikers and clinched 6th place in the all-time Serie A scoring records.
In 2010/11, things began to take a turn for the worst for Totti. Manager Claudio Ranieri lacked faith in Totti, who was in his mid-thirties, keeping him on the bench and instead favouring younger players. His limited playing time caused several clashes with Ranieri as Totti fell out of form, and rumours began to circulate that Totti was considering leaving the team. However, Ranieri resigned in 2011, with Totti’s former teammate Vincenzo Montella taking on the role instead. Under a new manager, Totti seemed to be back on top form, being voted the best active Italian player in a poll by La Gazzetta dello Sport.
In 2013, Roma announced that Totti had signed a new contract, keeping him at the club until 2016 – past his 39th birthday. It is no surprise why, when in 2013/14 he helped the team maintain a 100% record over 7 games, winning the “Captain of Captains” award by the association Editutto and Baker Tilly Revisa. Totti began the 2014/15 season as one of the star players of Roma’s pre-season friendlies. 3 days after his 38th birthday, Totti became the oldest scorer in the Champions League – a record that was topped by himself once again at 38 years and 59 days old. Totti finished the season as Roma's leading scorer with ten goals in all competitions, the seventh time in which he had been the team's top scorer.
In 2016, with tensions high between Totti and manager Luciano Spalletti, rumours began to circulate that he would be leaving the club once his contract expired. This proved to be true, as Totti played his final game in 2017.
Appearances: 618 / Goals: 250 / Assists: 139
Appearances: 59 / Goals: 18 / Assists: 12
Appearances: 57 / Goals: 17 / Assists: 12
Appearances: 30 / Goals: 10 / Assists: 9
Appearances: 12 / Goals: 1 / Assists: 6
Appearances: 5 / Goals: 1 / Assists: 4
Europa League Qualifying
Appearances: 4 / Goals: 10 / Assists: 2
World Cup winner
Golden Boot winner
2x Italian Cup winner
2x Italian Super Cup winner
Young player of the year
2x Footballer of the year
European under-21 champion
Montello was at his peak during his stint with Roma, but he admits that his relationship with Totti was, at times, strained. “At the start we didn’t get along very well, on a personal level. We didn’t click. But with time, we developed a solid rapport of respect and friendship.” He goes on to express his wish for Totti to have a fruitful career, and for him to quit while he is at his peak, rather than be slowly taken out by injuries.
In the 2001/02 season, Totti played as either a forward or a second striker alongside Antonio Cassano, who had just joined the team at that time.
Where Is He Now?
After retiring for football, Totti began studying for a course to obtain his UEFA B coaching license. However, the course clashed with his commitments as a director of Roma, so he withdrew just 2 weeks after enrolment. In 2019, he announced his resignation from his managerial role at AS Roma, accusing chairman James Pallotta and the management for not keeping him in the loop when it came to the club’s decision making. He stated that he would only reconsider a comeback under different ownership, marking the end of his 30 years of association with Roma.