Francesco Totti & The Serfs' New Clothes

Paolo Bruno

The cynic in me is the optimist in me.

Screw your shirts. For what they are - a twelve month stopgap to be sewn by four year olds in 4,000 degree warehouses - they're nice. There's even a number seven in the collar at the personal request of George Costanza. Lovely. After the shenanigans with the training strip, a million sighs of relief dance into the skies. And really, the only way these shirts could've had me sit up and take notice is if James Pallotta unveiled them by ripping off his vest/Oxford combo by screaming, in his best Kanye, "LANVIN THOUSAND DOLLAR TEE WITH NO LOGOS." Illest mother@#$%er alive indeed. Roma might care. I don't - not anymore. One man's words shook the festivities.

There are things to be taken lightly in this world, to be cast of as a joke or trivial or meaningless or, "Oh my god who cares anymore." Television. Whatever you just posted on Instagram. Anything out of any politician's mouth ever. Cancer research.

But this is not one of them.

Francesco Totti is not a brilliant man. There is no Nobel Prize in his future, nor will he be found banging on the glass of a late night diner asking, "Do you like apples?" Well, perhaps, but he'll be steeped in a genuine curiosity as to whether or not you would enjoy some midnight snackage in the form of delicious fruit. But cunning and guile demand no intellectual extravagance, and Francesco does indeed hold those. His comment, "This will be my last shirt." A sly jab to spark contract discussions? Fair theory. His contract is up in twelve months and the suits have yet to commence talks on extending it into years unknown, as he's indicated he desires in the past. Show the man his love. Or perhaps there's more...

A few days ago the "wiretap" scandal erupted. Leaked discussions. Inside info. The soul-shaking knowledge that men who broker multi-million dollar deals can't successfully mash that little red phone icon in times of need. More, it is a confirmation that this is entirely a business to the current regime. James Pallotta remarked weeks ago that the entire club, right down to the silicone in the she-wolf's teats, is up for sale. Like that oak monster in the conference room? It has a price too, co-ownerships of some window treatments accepted in return. Impressed by the pruning at Trigoria? We'll make sure the gardener agrees your personal terms, but quid pro quo, darling. Quid pro quo.

The Roman market is running strong, but newsflash: they are not making purchases the scale of Benatia, Jedvaj and Strootman without making a big sale. Not a Pablo Osvaldo-sized sale. A big, big sale. Someone is leaving.

The big name is not a Brazilian with the braces who's been in town less than a year. The big name is the man whose heart pumps blood half red, half yellow. Much like Francesco, Daniele could've left. He could've gone for titles. He could've gone for money. No matter his salary now, he could've made more elsewhere. He could have hand-picked his club. He could've had it all. Yet he stayed because, and someone will need to find the exact quote, there are more important things in this world than titles. He stayed for the same reason Francesco stayed - for love.

No twenty million euro purchase from Argentina or Holland can supplant the emotional bond evoked by a boy from the city becoming a superstar. He and Francesco are the emotional bridges between the club and its fanbase. They cannot be bought; muttering "priceless" indicates there's a sale somewhere. In some respects, it defines Roma as a club of the city; they are its very core and identity, its beating heart. At current, AS Roma has two; suddenly a threat to soon be one.

Perhaps we can consider this a challenge to management on a number of levels. Part, "Let's talk about my contract," and part...

"Go ahead. Sell my Roman heir as I place one foot out the door."

The timing and about-face after months of statements to the contrary on this little soundbite are not lost. There is more to this than a sly indication Francesco is due to walk out the door in twelve months time. We think. We hope.

Or perhaps we've just finally reached the day when we can't face the inevitable.

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