It was just over two years ago that Francesco Totti could barely get a game.
Manager Claudio Ranieri’s incessant tinkering meant the then-34-year-old was playing in a different position with different teammates from week to week to start the season, and with only a single league goal to his name as December approached, he started five of Roma’s next 12 matches on the bench.
Ranieri had made Totti the scapegoat, and the club captain wouldn’t get regular football again until Vincenzo Montella was installed as manager following a 4-3 loss to Genoa on Feb. 20.
But it was Totti who had the last laugh.
In the 12 matches he played after Ranieri’s departure, he racked up an impressive 11 goals to finish as the top scorer on his team with the seventh-highest total in Serie A. He has played regularly ever since, and on Sunday, following his 226th Serie A goal, he won the praise of Aurelio Andreazzoli, his latest manager.
“With Totti playing at this level, then it all becomes easier,” remarked the former Roma assistant (via Football Italia). “[Totti] makes even the most difficult moves seem simple.”
Indeed, it was an attacking play midway through the first half that showcased Totti’s talent even more than the free-kick goal in the 70th minute that made him the second-highest goalscorer in Serie A history.
Anticipating Marquinho’s cross from the left, Totti tempted Parma defender Alessandro Lucarelli to close him down before returning the ball to Marquinho following a delicate flick made on a spin. Marquinho’s subsequent cross was met by Simone Perrotta, who looked as though he would double Roma’s lead before his effort clanged off the bar.
The move was classic Totti: his pass the stroke of a paintbrush, his football a ballet.
Of course, it was his goal with 20 minutes remaining that made the night truly memorable. Now, with 226 Serie A tallies to his name, only that of Pro Vercelli and Lazio icon Silvio Piola sits above him on the all-time scoring chart.
Milan legend Gunnar Nordahl (who also played a season at Roma) and his 225 goals was surpassed on Sunday, and the likes of Giuseppe Meazza, Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero and Luigi Riva were eclipsed by Totti some time ago.
Already, Totti has targeted Piola’s 274 goals as his next objective, although to reach it, he’ll have to extend a contract that runs out in 2014. He has previously hinted that a move to Major League Soccer might be in the cards, but even if he realizes Piola’s record is simply unattainable at his age, it’s hard to see him leaving the Italian capital.
To paraphrase John Foot, author of the excellent book Calcio: “In Rome, Totti has become bigger than the club, itself.”