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Mister Roma

Totti’s personal Champions League dream

Star names come and go at AS Roma, but amidst the hustle and bustle, Francesco Totti has stayed firmly put. The locally-born playmaker has spent the last 20 years at Roma, and has never contemplated moving away. For understandable reasons, Totti enjoys cult status in the Eternal City, where he is a living legend and a rare constant in the kaleidoscope world of Italian football.

Roma’s fortunes have been inextricably bound to those of their captain for more years than most people can remember. If the 33-year-old is fit and on form, the three-time Serie A champions are a force to be reckoned with. But if the somewhat injury-prone midfielder is sidelined, the team as a whole has tended to misfire.

Recovered from the flu

In the build-up to Wednesday evening’s Champions League meeting with Bayern, the devoted tifosi were in a state of some anxiety. Following Saturday’s sobering 5-1 defeat away to Cagliari, Mister Roma was unable t train with a bad cold. However, he has declared himself fit in time to feature at the Allianz Arena.

The iconic player, top of the all-time appearance chart for the Rome club by some distance, is likely to operate up front in Munich, and will go in search of a goal by way of successfully launching his latest quest to claim the prize he desires more than anything else, namely the Champions League.

Devoted to his club

Totti has other wise already won all there is to win. He joined the Roma youth section in 1989, becoming captain of the senior side some eight years later. In 2001 he led Roma to the league title, with Italian cup triumphs following in 2007 and 2008. An Olympic stadium ball-boy for the 1990 World Cup, he would be a member of the Italy’s world championship side in Berlin 16 years later.

After reaching the summit with the Azzurri, he announced his international retirement in order to focus solely on the club he loves: “My body can’t cope with the double burden, and AS Roma is more important to me,” Totti declared at the time.

Three-time runner-up

In the four seasons since then, Roma have finished runners-up on no fewer than three occasions. It is an impressive achievement, especially as the men from the capital rate as the poor relations in Italian football compared to moneybags rivals Inter and AC Milan and Turin giants Juventus. Without Totti, the national team’s fortunes have declined: the Squadra Azzurra were knocked out in the quarter-finals at Euro 2008, and collapsed to an embarrassing group stage exit at the World cup in South Africa.

Totti’s star continue to shine with undiminished brightness. The critics who mocked his showbiz lifestyle and glamour marriage to model Ilary Blasi in 2005 have long fallen silent. The couple now have two children, and have never provided the Italian tabloids with anything but flattering stories.

Self-deprecating, socially involved

At the end of the day, Totti has earned widespread respect for his ironic and self-deprecating sense of humour. Instead of reacting huffily to the extensive and largely scurrilous catalogue of Totti gags, he jumped the bandwagon, publishing the best-selling paperback Every Totti Joke under his own name. Since 2003, all revenues from the tome have been donated to children’s aid projects supported by the player in his role as a Unicef ambassador.