Football in Italy is a religion and its home is Rome. This, much to the dismay of Lazio fans, makes Francesco Totti a God amongst men.
The Italian is one of the finest players of his generation but one who has always resisted the temptation to leave Roma to earn more money with another team.
Totti is Roman through and through - the King of Rome in the eyes of many.
Even at the ripe old age of 39, he remains the self-proclaimed persecutor of Lazio with the strength of a soldier and the strut of a prince. Many players have come and gone for Lazio over the years, but each one, when faced with the prospect of the Rome derby, must first conquer the imposing figure of Totti. The derby is the fiercest fixture in Italian football; it’s so much more than a football match, it is a territorial battle, divided by politics and tradition.
It is very easy to reminisce in a romantic fashion the narrative of Totti’s career. His solitary Scudetto was a Hollywood triumph against the odds, which was only eclipsed by his World Cup success in 2006. He took the lead role on both occasions, playing a pivotal part for club and country.
Despite this, many will argue that Totti’s trophy cabinet is far too bare for the Italian to be considered a true legend of the game. However Totti’s refusal to be bought or sold for more success makes him greater in my eyes.
His exceptional ability on the field comes at a price. Totti plays on the edge, with a tendency to cross the line – like the time he booted Mario Balotelli from behind, in an attempt to teach the young Italian some manners.
However one can’t help but feel that if Totti had moved to Real Madrid, then his disciplinarily record would have improved as a result, because the matches would have mattered to him much less.
Maybe his temper is a consequence of his ego getting the better of him; maybe he truly believes he is a gladiator. This is the difference between a player like Totti and a player like Diego Costa. Totti is a leader who honours the fans of Roma.
Of course, English football can point to its own one-club heroes, although players like Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and John Terry were fortunate to play for teams that had infinite financial resources and truly great managers. When Totti graduated from the youth ranks at Roma, he was not afforded such privileges.
Many people might compare him to Steven Gerrard, and, like Totti, Gerrard received lucrative offers to play elsewhere in his career, but opted to stay with his boyhood club. Despite this people seem to have forgotten Gerrard has become a two-club man since joining LA Galaxy.
The only worthy comparison I can think of is Matt Le Tissier at Southampton. He stayed loyal to the Saints despite the constant threat of relegation, and arguably jeopardised his England career in the process.
Nonetheless Totti stands alone for me, he was born in the heart of Rome and propelled straight into battle as soon as he was old enough. Totti is the kind of maverick we don’t get in the UK anymore. Not since the likes of George Best and Paul Gascoigne has British football had a truly captivating personality to watch in awe and wonder.
The Italian is a rebel without a cause who has lived to tell the tale. He is a nonconformist, who defied the Galacticos and their cash.
He is the greatest player of his generation, a true one-club man and an icon for Roma and his country.
This article originally appeared first on FootballFancast.com