No matter how widely loved some people are, there would always be haters. It’s inevitable and in the career of Francesco Totti, I hated him for a long time.
Totti is only one of the finest footballers Italy will ever produce; finest in every sense of the word.
He had skills like Jay Jay Okocha, an intelligence of the game that put him well above many other footballers and, in his prime, he was more handsome than pretty much all the fine boys at Arsenal.
But I still hated this footballer called Totti and weirdly, it was for none of all the above.
Rather, it was for the one reason I came to respect him for eventually; he remained loyal to the one club he played for, AS Roma.
In a sport that has seen many footballers beat their palm on the badge of their club as a sign of loyalty and love only to end up with another club soon after, Totti was indeed as rare as they come.
He made his Roma first team debut aged only 16 way back in March 1993 and two years later, he had become a regular for the club.
There were a few times he could have left the club, though. Then club president, Franco Sensi intervened to stop him leaving for Sampdoria on loan in 1997.
But the greatest urge to leave came in his prime in 2002, a year after winning his only league title with Roma, when Real Madrid and Barcelona tried to sign him.
He turned down both clubs and years later, revealed that his regretted not signing for Real Madrid at the time.
And for this, Madrid fans gave Totti a rare standing ovation for an opposition player when he played for Roma against Real at the Bernabeu in 2016.
Notwithstanding, Totti moved on from turning them down in 2002 to win the World Cup with Italy in 2006 and the Italian Cup with Roma in 2007 and 2008.
In the end, however hard it may have been for him, he gave his entire football life to one club and for that, he gained the respect of all.
And even many more respect him for the fine footballer he was. A number of high profile players have wished they had him as a teammate while more spoke of their honour to play against him.
He may have chose the wrong team of Rome in my opinion, but in the end, Totti will always be one of the greatest gifts football’s blessed with.
‘It’s really over now. I’m taking off that jersey for the final time,’ Totti said at the end of his final appearance for Roma and as a footballer; fittingly a 3-2 win over Genoa.
It was his 786th for the one club he played for.
And for that, I salute him!
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