Let’s get one thing clear from the off: to us, Francesco Totti is a world-class footballer. He is not, however, the King of Rome. It’s time to stop jumping on this worn-out old bandwagon. He was simply unambitious.
What is it with football fans and glorifying a lack of ambition? In this sport, we all too often gloss over underachievement as ‘loyalty’.
Very rarely does a ‘loyal’ player – the type who seems to stick at the same club from straight after birth until their dying day, if you follow the hype – actually remain loyal to a top club.
Look at Steven Gerrard, for example. Yes, his days at Liverpool were borderline glorious at times and he showed immense dedication to the club, but could he have played for a bigger and better team? Almost certainly.
Gerrard stayed at Liverpool even as they began their dissent into the mediocrity we see today and, in doing so, destroyed any possibility of him playing at the top level, where he should have been.
But now that he’s jetted off from Merseyside to Los Angeles and back again, football fans across the world have shifted their focus to yet another undoubtedly ‘loyal’ player.
Franceco Totti. He’s commonly know as the King of Rome. Although, and we’ve done our research, they haven’t had one of those since 495BC.
32% of players who’ve played in Serie A this season…weren’t alive when Francesco Totti made his AS Roma debut. pic.twitter.com/MXf8sVM85k
— 8 Fact Football (@8Fact_Footballl) April 5, 2017
He’s been deified to the point where we’ve become blind to two rather important things. The first is that Totti, especially in his imperious prime, could have played at any club in the world. He could have won far more and upped his standing in the game twofold at another club. All he had to do was prove the promise he showed with Roma with a better team.
The second of these things is that, despite having arguably been one of his generation’s best players, Totti has never actually set the world alight. Not being stuck at Roma, that is.
Having played in numerous different positions over the course of his expansive career, he is probably best known for his performances as a forward. Yet Roma’s golden boy has only ever scored over 20 goals in just one of his 25 seasons.
The mass of Totti’s defenders out there will no doubt caw out that he is Roma’s all-time top goalscorer. They’d be quite right in saying that; he is. But when you compare the vast number of games that Totti had to become top goalscorer with those around him, that little fact pales into insignificance.
Furthermore, Serie A is not a league that bristles with stiff competition. It is an astonishingly competitive and difficult league, yes, but it’s not the Prem, Bundesliga or La Liga. It will always be at a level just below the rest.
This may surprise some.
Players with 20 goals or more 16/17
Serie A (4)
La Liga (2)
Ligue 1 (2)
Premier League (1)
— Adam Summerton (@adamsummerton) April 4, 2017
But it’s sadly the only place to measure Totti’s domestic success. So, let’s take a look at his performance on the international stage.
Oh, wait. Hold up. No, let’s not. Nine goals from 58 games is nothing to shout about. We don’t want to show the King up, do we?
Moving on, then. Totti has been criticised from many angles. Graeme Souness once politely put it that “he’s never been accused of being a workaholic,”, whilst Ron Atkinson went for a slightly less polite approach: “He’s a little tw*t, that Totti.”.
Strong words, maybe. But, whilst what Big Ron says is up for contention, the point is still clear. Totti is not recognised as having been one of the world’s best footballers. He is, however, recognised as one of the world’s most loyal.
Sadly, he sacrificed one for the other.
Francesco Totti could have been recognised as one of the world’s best, but he unfortunately isn’t.
An 18-year old Francesco Totti scores a brilliant goal for Roma against Barcelona back in 1994. pic.twitter.com/yhtvRYPH36
— Billionaire Bet (@Billionaire_BET) April 8, 2017
Had he moved from Roma to a club that would facilitate the aforementioned tag, he would have undoubtedly gone down in footballing history for his talent, not his reluctance to up sticks.
So, why do us football fans feel the innate need to glorify a disturbing unfulfilling of sumptuous potential? We should have been encouraging a move years ago, eager to see what this man could have offered. Instead, we gave him a stupid nickname and sang his ‘loyal’ praises from the rooftops.
The true King of Rome will be one that plays there, like Totti, out of love and loyalty. But also one who plays there because it’s his level. Not because it’s safe.