Francesco Totti could have more fans in Rome than Pope Francis, according to Roma coach Rudi Garcia.
The 38-year-old forward is set to appear in Serie A for the first time this season when the Italian capital club travel to take on promoted Frosinone.
Totti, still stuck on 299 career goals for Roma, has been with the Stadio Olimpico outfit since 1989, and has racked up 588 league appearances in the senior side from 1992 onwards.
Garcia lauded the returning Totti, who is set to replace Miralem Pjanic in the XI – and what higher praise than putting the retired Italy international above the leader of the Catholic Church.
“It’s difficult to pick between Totti or Pope Francis in terms of popularity in Rome,” Garcia told Radio Monte Carlo.
“The Roma shirt is like a second skin for Francesco.
“He is incredible. He is an amazing player, on and off the field.
“We try to coddle him in training but he has never asked to be treated differently.”
Garcia detailed how he plans to deploy Totti, who is set to appear in his 24th Serie A season.
“When teams line-up with five defenders then we could play him in a 4-3-3,” the French coach, 51, said.
“Otherwise Francesco could also be fielded just behind Edin [Dzeko], as we are working on that.
“One of my goals is to win a title with my captain. That is why we made quality signings during the transfer window.
“Along with that, we want to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League.”