With Italy having booked early passage to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, manager Cesare Prandelli was free to muse about present and future selections when the Azzurri broke camp ahead of upcoming matches against Denmark and Armenia.
The 56-year-old spoke highly of injury-prone striker Giuseppe Rossi, whom he recalled to the squad following a two-year absence. He also told reporters there would be no ultimatum for controversial forward Mario Balotelli, who only just served out a three-match ban in Serie A. (h/t Sky Sports)
But Prandelli’s most interesting Monday musings concerned Francesco Totti—the 37-year-old attacker who retired from international football in 2006 before hitting a purple patch late in his career.
“Totti is in fantastic form,” Prandelli said. “His condition right now does make you reflect.”
He added: “If the World Cup was around the corner, I would have no doubts and would absolutely call him up. But we will evaluate the player’s condition one month prior to the World Cup.”
In other words, the Italy boss is preparing a recruitment drive designed to repatriate Totti, a World Cup winner in 2006, to the national setup.
One can hardly blame him.
So far this season, the Roma icon has featured in each of his side’s seven Serie A matches (playing the full 90 minutes in four of them) and has contributed three goals to an unprecedented, 100-percent run that has taken the Giallorossi to the top of the table heading into the international break.
But there has been so much more to Totti’s game than goals so far this season.
Employed in the middle of an attacking trident in Roma manager Rudi Garcia’s 4-3-3 formation, Totti has had the freedom to drop deep and create plays for the forwards operating on either side of him. He has created an impressive 22 chances already this term—five of which have translated into assists, per Squawka.
No one in Serie A has been as influential in attack.
Against Inter, he touched the ball 46 times and completed 91 percent of his passes—most of which were delivered upfield in the high-risk area of the attacking third. He required just a single touch to beat Nerazzurri goalkeeper Samir Handanovic to the far corner in the 18th minute at the San Siro; his other tally was a penalty.
“Totti is the symbol of Roma,” Giallorossi midfielder Michael Bradley commented recently to the BBC (h/t Football Italia). “He is the person to whom the fans have more respect and loyalty than anyone else.”
That Prandelli would be considering a recall for a player on as good a run as Totti is currently is hardly surprising. But if the forward accepts the manager’s invitation, it would see him return to the international fold for the first time in nearly eight years.
The thing is, Totti has not diminished since then. If anything, his maturity and experience have only enhanced the quality of attacking play he always espoused.
And with so many question marks remaining in the Italy attack—Rossi and Balotelli among them—Totti’s presence, whether as a starter or merely a squad player, would only be of benefit.