Roma coach Luciano Spalletti and captain Francesco Totti have played down reports of a rift following the dramatic conclusion to Sunday’s 3-3 draw against Atalanta.
Veteran forward Totti has been a fringe player this season, with injuries playing their part, and is yet to start a match since Spalletti returned to the Stadio Olimpico as Rudi Garcia’s successor for a second spell in charge.
The 39-year-old came off the bench to score his second goal of the season five minutes from time and earn a share of the spoils over the weekend before claims of a clash with his coach.
It is not the first time Spalletti’s relationship with his senior player has been called into question and the Roma boss issued a statement to “categorically deny that there was an argument or, even worse, a physical confrontation with any of my players”.
Stories alleging discontent between the pair led to Italian satirical news show Striscia La Notizia presenting them with its dubious Tapiro d’Oro gong – awarded to celebrities who have suffered embarrassment in public.
Totti and Spalletti took the award in good spirits and told Striscia La Notizia that they are on good terms.
“I was angry with Totti because he should have scored another goal,” Spalletti said. “I treat him though like the important player that he is for this club.
“He is an icon for Roma. He will decide when he retires but he could play for a few more years.”
Totti concurred with his coach’s assessment and, despite his limited playing time this season, the former Italy international has not given up on extending his career-long association with Roma.
“Everything is fine, we will go to dinner together, he is a very nice guy,” Totti claimed. “It is in the past now for both of us and it has been blown out of proportion.
“I still believe I have a lot to give to Roma but it will not be up to me if I stay.”
Meanwhile, Roma president James Pallotta played down the dispute as a typical dressing-room exchange.
Pallotta told Corriere dello Sport: “Something happened that goes in in every dressing room so the question is not so important for me.
“Quite the opposite, it has no importance at all. I will not talk to anyone about what I say to Francesco, apart from Francesco.”
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