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Totti on new Champions League campaign, rejecting Real, Ballon d'Or race and more

On the eve of the new Champions League campaign, Roma director Francesco Totti sat down with the club's in-house television channel to discuss the challenge ahead.

The Giallorossi begin the 2018-19 group stage away to Real Madrid on Wednesday night - a tough test, but one Totti believes his side can acquit themselves well in.

Totti has his own long and established history with the Spanish club - Real president Florentino Perez having famously called him the only player ever to reject him - and the legendary forward discussed that too, among other matters.

Read the full interview transcript below.

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After the great run Roma had in the Champions League last year, how far are you looking to go this season?

“Roma start the Champions League hoping to get back to where we were last season. That’s something everyone at Roma wants, the fans especially. We know it won’t be easy to do it again in a competition like this, but we’ll try to take Roma as far as possible in Europe.”

The first game will be the hardest of the lot, on paper at least. What sort of game are you expecting at the Bernabeu?

“Our first game does appear to be the toughest on paper because you’re playing the European champions in Madrid and we all know the Bernabeu is a bit different to any other ground. But we have them in our first match and perhaps we can go there and produce a great performance.

"I’m sure we will because we have the squad to do well - even if we are playing a team of superstars.”

Does the Bernabeu frighten or motivate you as a player?

“The Bernabeu can both intimidate and inspire. You don’t play in games like that very often so when you do you want to give a good account of yourself.”

You have a special relationship with the Bernabeu and experienced some of the highlights of your career there. What do you remember about 30 October 2002?

“I have lots of wonderful memories of the Bernabeu and lots of bad ones too, but over my 25-year career I have more good memories than bad. In 2002 I scored in Madrid and we won 1-0 – that was one of the best moments of my career.

"It was the first time in years that an Italian club had managed to win in Madrid and I got the goal so I was doubly delighted, although at the time I was thinking more about the team than myself.”

Then in 2016 the Bernabeu gave you a standing ovation…

“I came on a few minutes from the end and the entire stadium rose to their feet to applaud me. That capped off my entire career. It was a day I'll never forget. They’ve seen a few decent players on that pitch over the years and they have amazing players now. Seeing everyone stand up to applaud me was something I never expected.

"I’m infinitely grateful to them because every time I played there they always treated me magnificently.”

Can you tell us what actually happened with Real Madrid? Is it true they sent you a Real shirt with your name on it to try to convince you to join them?

“There was a time in my career, from about 2004 or 2005 onwards, when Real Madrid tried everything to get me to join them. They sent me a No.10 shirt with ‘Totti’ on it to try and help me make up my mind. I wouldn’t say their president [Florentino Perez] called me all the time but he and the people he worked with tried to get in contact with me.

"I was caught in two minds at the time – I was sitting on the fence. At the end of the day, love won it. My love for this club, this city, these fans. My love for everyone who has helped me in the last 25 years to be the captain of this team and a one-club man.”

Has Florentino Perez said anything to you since?

“I’ve met Florentino Perez several times since. The last time was at the draw in Monaco the other week. He’s always very friendly but he says the same thing to me every time: that I’m the only player he was never able to persuade to join Real Madrid. He’s never been able to come to terms with that. The last time we played Real Madrid he asked me to sign a jersey for him saying ‘The only player to say no to Real Madrid’.”

Luka Modric has always said you’re his idol. Do you think he could win the Ballon d’Or?

“I think Modric has a good chance of winning the Ballon d’Or this year, although I must say I’ve never understood the criteria for winning it. It's either because you've won trophies or because you're the best player. They’re two different things. The last 10 or 15 years those two have been on a completely different level.

Modric is a world-class player himself and he’s a notch above the rest too. He’s won loads of trophies and had a great World Cup so I think he has a good chance of winning the Ballon d’Or. But at the end of the day I reckon Cristiano Ronaldo will win it.”

Who would you give the Ballon d’Or to?

“Personally, I'd give it to Modric, for a change if nothing else. I think Ronaldo and Messi would be happy too.”