Down 2-1 with roughly four minutes to play, Roma appeared to conceeded their Champions League spot, gift-wrapped to Serie A rivals, Inter Milan. The once minor rifts within the clubs were becoming deep chasms, the feud between club manager, Luciano Spalletti and club legend, Francesco Totti have been dividing fans into two separate camps.
As victory appeared to slip beyond reach, Spalletti’s decision to introduce Totti felt like more an act of desperation, than a calculated tactical decision. But up stepped Totti, delivering as only he can, bailing out Roma for the third successive week – you couldn’t write a better script.
Totti’s contract is set to expire this summer and although he will be 40 years old in September, he has publicly voiced his desire for a one-year extension – Spalletti is far from convinced he deserves it.
Even now, with his team losing at home, desperately in need of goals to maintain their hopes of Champions League football, Spalletti hesitated to introduce his star man. There were only four minutes left by the time that the manager finally sent Totti on to replace Seydou Keita.
It turned out to be more than enough – Totti needed just 22 seconds to equalise, jabbing the ball in at the back post to score the fastest goal scored by a substitute in Serie A all season. Just two and a half minutes later, Totti made it 3-2 to Roma from the penalty spot.
What followed was complete pandemonium, Totti screaming “I love you Ilary [his wife]” directly down a TV camera lens as team-mates piled over him and grown men burst into tears in the stands. Spalletti simply stood and laughed, before sulking back towards the dugout with an almost solemn demeanour.
— Lega Serie A (@SerieAchannel) April 20, 2016
It was a night bask in the glory of Totti once more. Even at 39 years of age, the Italian is capable of producing match-winning moments out of nothing. Never before in his 24 seasons at Roma had he scored twice in a match that he started on the bench.
Totti clearly thinks he still has something to offer and the more fairytale moments he produces, the harder it will be for Spalletti to refuse his contract request. As Spalletti himself conceded:
“He knows that he can decide a match any time that he has the ball at his feet.”