Francesco Totti last represented Italy in 2006, but as he continues to shine for Roma, Luca Cetta assesses calls for his return.
Francesco Totti retired from the international game in the best possible manner. His last act wearing the Azzurri shirt was to hoist the World Cup trophy above his shoulders. It took a year, but he finally announced his retirement from the international scene to focus on Roma. Now there are calls to see Totti back in the blue.
A recent report suggested the only over-35 players going to Brazil will be Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo, but Totti is a viable option for Cesare Prandelli. He remains a vital cog for Roma, not somebody riding on the coattails of glories past. Rather, Totti continues to write his story.
Roma boss Rudi Garcia admits while he may not have the fitness of a decade ago, the 37-year-old version offers more experience and is a ‘genius’.
Er Pupone has aged like a fine wine. The vision, touch and intelligence have not deserted. And his scoring record has only bettered during his time away from the Nazionale. Since Berlin, Totti has netted 109 of his 234 Serie A goals for the Giallorossi. That is in just under eight seasons. If Prandelli needs a goal, Totti can provide.
If the Coach is looking for an elder statesman to act as a guide then there are few better options than the Lupi icon – especially in a tournament situation. He’s been there before. Garcia notes that Totti is not the most vocal captain off the pitch, but what he does on it makes him an example to follow.
His inclusion would give Prandelli attacking options. The tactician has a number of choices to make, in personnel and system. The CT hasn’t settled on one principal formation, but in all his incarnations there would be a place for Totti. He can fill his traditional trequartista role, but also out wide – where Zdenek Zeman used him last term – as a supporting striker or leading the attack.
With the ball at his feet Totti is what Garcia says. He has the ability to bring others into the game with one deft pass. Only teammate Gervinho has created more goals in Serie A, with 10 assists compared to Totti’s nine.
Conversely, the question remains - can the 37-year-old’s legs still go at the highest level in what will be hot and humid conditions? Totti does not play frequently in such short bursts for Roma. He last played 90 minutes in January and for more than 75 minutes in just half his 20 appearances this term and that puts a limitation on Prandelli’s starting options. Totti has scored only once this season from the bench – a penalty – suggesting greater effectiveness when starting.
Nor has he played in any sort of continental competition since the 2011-12 Europa League qualifiers, or a competition proper since the 2010-11 Champions League. It’s a different animal to Serie A.
Those aspects could count against him, but when it comes down to it, this is Francesco Totti. He remains decisive for Roma and can bring that touch of attacking genius to Brazil.
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