He spent his entire professional career playing for one club, but contemporary, corporate football has no sympathy for Francesco Totti, who has become yet another victim of the ruthless, demanding, result-driven game.
The King of Rome made his AS Roma debut in 1992 and went on to play 749 matches in all competitions, during his 24 years with Giallorossi.
All of the legacy he helped AS Roma built over the last quarter of a century was played down to three minutes in last week’s Champions League last 16 clash against Real Madrid, which was only his third appearance since September.
Coming in as a substitute for Alessandro Florenzi, the legendary captain’s introduction was coloured with irony.
Leader and game-winner was not expected to make any difference in the game as his inclusion in the team was nothing more than an homage to the ageing hero, an homage that was justifiably taken for an insult from AS Roma captain.
“I can’t stay at AS Roma like this. It hurts to be on the bench. I understand at my age that I play less, but ending my career like this is bad for me as a man and what I’ve given to Roma. I demand more respect.”, Totti told after the game.
The 39-year-old Francesco Totti has been ruled out with injury for four months since last September.
The veteran Italian feels that injury is behind him and that he can make greater contribution to AS Roma’s cause, but only four Serie A games and three minutes of Real Madrid game were all he played this season, following a year during which he made 36 appearances.
Angered by the captain’s comments, Luciano Spalletti opted to drop Francesco Totti from the first team in order to avoid unrest in the squad, and his decision has come across divided opinions in Italy.
Without any sentiment, Totti was ruthlessly reminded that club goes before any individual.
The club stood behind coach’s choices, while AS Roma fans made sure to make their opinion was heard. Totti succumbed to emotions at the stands during the weekend, when supporters cheered his name at the stadiumagainst Palermo, but AS Roma president claims that Spalletti did the right thing.
The Italian manager draw the line under the conflict Totti has been reinstated in the first team following a 5-0 triumph over Palermo.
Francesco Totti has been a devoted soldier of the club from the very first moment he put on the Giallorossi shirt.
The Italian legend was perhaps rash in his snap judgements and public comments, but his limited time on the pitch has taken its toll and prompted such a hasty reaction.
The captain is aware that high demands and physical aspects of the game are tough to meet at his age and condition, but sitting on the bench is simply too much for the football-thirsty captain who was still the main man not too long ago.
It has just been thirteen months since Francesco Totti added another memorable moment to his impressive career.
AS Roma were two goals down in a derby match against Lazio when Totti stepped into the limelight to score a brace for a scintillating draw. He hooked a left-sided cross and levelled to score, celebrating his goal by taking a picture of himself in front of AS Roma fans.
He marked his 40th derby appearance with those two goals, making history once again as he has become the leading scorer in matches between two local rivals.
What a difference a year makes.
Heading to his 40s, Francesco Totti is not a needed figure at AS Roma. His team put five past Palermo as Giallorossi are headed towards the third-place finish. AS Roma stand at 5/4 to clinch the Champions League spot at the end of the season and they are able to do it without Totti.
The King of Rome does not want to hang up his boots, he can’t imagine himself playing for any other Italian team other than Gillorossi and, in all honesty, he would have difficult time finding first team football in any other European club.
Is he ready to spend his last days squandering his stature and reputation on the green pastures of Asia and America?
As his contract expires in summer, it is hard to envisage a happy ending to another football fairy tale that is bound to be deprived of any Shakespearean romanticism.
A dying breed of one-club species, Francesco Totti will join the likes of Steven Gerrard and John Terry, one of the latest legends to be dropped down the gutter.