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Totti Today #81: A Captaincy Crisis

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The world is such an unfair place. No hero deserves an exit via the back door. No single hero. Certainly not a hero who gave his heart and soul for this club for almost 25 years. And yet Rome's the place where exactly that is happening in front of our eyes. The downfall of an icon.

Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

If you look at the numbers, you smell something fishy is going on with our beloved Francesco Totti. Since 1994, Il Capitano always played at least 20 Serie A games per season, sometimes 30+, an average of about 28 games. This season Francesco featured in six games up till now. SIX. His lowest total since 1993-1994 when he was still considered a child. A golden child. If there was ever any doubt when his demise in Rome would begin, stop looking. Was 2015-2016 simply unnecessary? Was it too much all of a sudden?

Totti was never an example of extreme fitness. He's no Robben or Aquilani, but he ain't Ronaldo or Messi either, players who can easily play 50+ games (including cups, national teams) for consecutive seasons and are rarely get injured. Totti had his fair share of injuries during his career but always fought back. His record is 35 Serie A games, during 2006-2007. Strangely enough he was already 30 and not on his physical peak of let's say 26 or 28. That was also the season where he scored 26 goals, another personal record. Numbers we can now only dream about, Francesco can only dream about.

But not because it's his own fault. Because there are powers above who finally decided this season would be the start of the collapse. The first cracks in the wall. The beginning of the end. The moment we all feared. Everybody in Rome feared. The captain is not untouchable anymore. Captain's not even the appropriate word anymore. Florenzi, Daniele, Keita, they all wore the armband in the absence of Francesco Totti. While Daniele and Florenzi somehow soothe the pain (Romans and all), you can't help but feel empty inside. What's a match of Roma without the sight of Totti and his bandiera?

Melanie C from the Spice Girls once sang: "Things will never be the same again." You know what? She was right. Even though Roma are on a great run these days (the little hick-up from yesterday not included) and are back on a Champions League place, this just doesn't feel right. 2015-2016 feels so different than all the others. Even if we end in the top two, it will never be deemed a successful or memorable season. All of this because of one man. Actually multiple factors. Not only Totti, also Pallotta, Spalletti and Garcia are controversial figures.

I always remember the saying that a club shouldn't depend on one man. The collective is always bigger and more important than the individual. Barcelona's bigger than Messi, Real bigger than Ronaldo, PSG bigger than Ibra. That's true. Apart from one exception: Roma. And that's why we all fell in love with it. The impact of one man on the entire infrastructure. From shirt sales to stadium attendance to banners to prizes to trainers. Totti is omnipresent in Rome. Always has been, always will.

Touching Totti means touching the roots of Rome. It's going to be painful. The club will survive (after all, it has done so all this time before little Francesco broke through the ranks), but we'll enter an entire new world. A world without its leader. You could even say a bit of chaos will be involved. There will be victims and villains. Pros and cons. Heaven and hell. It's like a bad Hollywood screenplay. Only now, the good guys won't win.

I feel a bit guilty. Now the dust had settled a bit on the Francesco File, I start digging it up again. Yet I couldn't help but write something down about this uncomfortable situation. I have 'known' Francesco for about 13 seasons now. You can't erase that. Letting go of Montella, Perrotta, Tonetto, Pizarro, Cassano, Aquilani or Marquinhos was difficult, but Totti, oh boy. Now that's gonna leave a mark.

I will not make the mistake to point out a culprit, to start name calling. It is what it is. We can't change the past. However, we can hope for a better future. A future WITH Totti. It's not over yet, he still has more talent in his right foot than any other player on this team. Totti can still be a weapon if he's used properly. But then he needs to get an honest chance. And that's what stings me a bit. He could have made a difference yesterday against Inter with one pass to Salah or SES. For example Totti could've finished the chance Dzeko got last night. Like I said, he needs to be used properly.

Honestly, I never thought it would escalate this fast. Last season he did fine with 27 appearances and 8 goals. Nothing to worry about, decent stats. And then that bloody 2015-2016 came around and probably changed Roma's history forever. A hero deserves a proper exit. A standing ovation which lasts a lifetime. The people at the club can still undo all of this and straighten things before the mob gets too agitated and frustrated. Like a true king, Francesco has many followers in Rome.

For now we'll let it slip and slide. There's an international break coming up. After that, we must once again hope and pray for more respect for our captain. What's truly unthinkable is that he won't feature in a game that means so much to all Romans, especially Francesco, namely the derby itself?

These are desperate times for the founder of our Church. But in faith we'll find relief.