If you're too pained by the thought of Francesco Totti retiring, or worse still, playing somewhere other than Roma next season, avert your eyes. However, if you're like me and you've resigned yourself to the fact that one of the most unique romances in the history of sport is headed towards a bitter divorce, you're slowly accepting that reality as a fact. Throughout the past few months, the company line regarding Totti's future has simply been: it's his decision. Whether he plays, moves up stairs or becomes a mountain recluse, the choice is his.
Well, my friends, it appears that was a ruse, if not an outright line. Speaking at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference (read: Comic Con for sports nerds), Pallotta shed some light onto the administrations true plans:
The situation with Francesco is really hard, I'd like him to become part of the management, but he'd prefer to continue playing. The captain said he was interested in going to play in Miami, but they don't [yet] have a team in MLS...He could be interested in moving to New York though
I've always tried to take a measured approach to this situation because, let's face it, given the clash between his legacy and Roma's performance without him, it was never going to end well. Barring some sort of John Elway-esque ride off into the sunset, wherein Totti retired a champion, the end of his playing career was/is always bound to be a sticky situation.
And for most of 2016, I took the club at their word, that they'd truly offer Totti a contract extension if he were willing to accept a lesser role, which, by all accounts, Totti was amenable to; he's never clamored to be a 90 minute starter at age 40, he just wants a role commensurate with his still considerable skill set.
But, well, there you have it. Pallotta came straight out and revealed the clubs true ambition; moving Totti upstairs into an as yet determined directors role, which is fine in and of itself, we all want him affiliated with this club in some shape or form for as long as he lives. However, given what he's meant to this club, literally, figuratively and financially, he deserves the right to be the arbiter of his own future.
Just the thought of Totti traipsing around in a skyblue NYCFC kit next year is enough to make you want to gouge your eyes out, isn't? But that's the path we're heading towards. Rather than nipping this in the bud back in the fall, the club has taken the worst possible tact: confronting this issue in the tabloids.
I still admire Luciano Spalletti for making the difficult decisions, and the grace with which Totti has handled this has only made him more estimable in my eyes, but the directors of this club have taken an already untenable situation and managed to make it worse.
If Totti wants to sign on for another year and play five minutes a match, fifty minutes a match or five times all year, so what? Big fucking deal. If anyone has earned that right its him.
There's a saying I've bandied about in this spaces before in regards to Roma's relation to the rest of the universe: We have Francesco Totti and you don't.
And now it looks like we won't even have that. I'm not sure how they'll spin this one, but its looking increasingly likely that this divorce will pursue the nuclear option.