Francesco Totti, Roma's symbolic captain, has once again thrown his hat into the ring for a return to the Italian national team. "If you want me, I'm there," was the message that he delivered loud and clear to Marcello Lippi following Italy's qualification for the World Cup in South Africa next year.
This is not the first time that Totti's name has been brought up. Ever since his self-imposed sabbatical immediately after the World Cup win in 2006, there have been murmurs as to his possible return, particularly since Lippi retook the reins from Roberto Donadoni at the head of the Azzurri. "Let's respect their decision to retire," was Lippi's initial response when asked about the possibility of convincing Totti and his ex-international team mate Alessandro Nesta to return to the Azzurri fold. It would seem however the winds are changing, with Italian FA President Giancarlo Abete leaving the door open when asked about it yesterday, saying, "There has always been a great relationship between Francesco and Marcello, but ultimately it is a decision for the coach."
The question is, should Lippi pick up the phone and ask Totti to come back? There is no doubt that there has been a creative void in the Italian national side ever since Totti took early retirement, and no one, not even the much-touted Antonio Cassano, has been able to adequately fill the gap. There is also no doubt that the present Italian side struggles to create goal scoring opportunities - 16 teams in the European groups have outscored Italy so far in the qualifiers. Look at what Francesco Totti might add - 15 goals in 12 games for Roma so far this season, 23 goals in 2009. He is perhaps a bit slower, and the joints a bit stiffer, but he still knows where the goal is. Would he not add something that has been missing to the Azzurri?
On the negative side, he is 33 and his more frequent bouts on the doctor's table would be a cause for concern. There is also the fact that he has developed a different role for himself at Roma - as a sole striker - rather than the classic number 10 that he was previously. Certainly, he still reads the game as well as he ever did and a match won't go past where he doesn't play a killer pass, but one does have to wonder if that is enough to merit his return for Italy. Antonio Cassano may not have particularly impressed at Euro 2008, but he seems to have taken another step forward both on and off the field and calls for his inclusion perhaps have more merit. However, they are also more likely to fall on deaf ears; at least, so long as those ears belong to Marcello Lippi.
They say that you should never go back in football, and Totti's return would only increase the average age of a side who desperately need to rejuvenate - but one can't help but feel that Roma's talismanic captain could have one final tournament left in him to play a key role for his country. And if it's a choice between Totti or no one for the creative striker role (assuming Lippi doesn't budge on Cassano), then perhaps he would merit a squad place at least. I for one wouldn't be too sad to see him running off sucking his thumb after he has scored another vital goal for Italy next summer.