If you gave me a million dollars to bet on the next Scudetto winner, my brain would tell me to put it on Juventus. Look, I’m no fool. Any team that has won five titles in a row (boy, that was painful to write) and added two of the best players in Serie A to their squad is the odds-on favorite with no exceptions. Yet as I put my bet in, I would have a twinge of regret, enough of a twinge that I would have a last-second change of heart and put it all on the team in giallo e rosso. Yeah, it’s most likely a million dollars down the drain, but even the distant scent of Roman victory is too tempting to ignore. That scent, irreparably linked to Francesco Totti, means that no matter who else is on the squad, Roma has a shot.
It is, after all, most likely the last season that this site’s namesake will play under the Italian sun, at least professionally. The contract has been inked, the kits have been printed, and the calendar has been decided. All that’s left now is 3,420 minutes of league football (give or take stoppage time). 57 hours of Totti between now and the Great Unknown, not only for Francesco but for A. S. Roma.
There will always be the memories, of course. Memories for some that start with his first appearance for the side, as a fresh-faced sixteen-year-old who came to the fore the same year as Beanie Babies, the same year that Michael Jordan decided to take a break from basketball, the year of Jurassic Park and Mrs. Doubtfire. Memories that undoubtedly include Roma’s third Scudetto, Italy’s fourth World Cup, and two Coppa Italias. Even the more recent memories, like the Selfie with the Curva Sud or his 600th Serie A appearance, will eventually fade deeper into the past. But for those who watched this peculiar club and its icon through their shared highs and lows, those memories will stay as clear as the day they were first made.
I’m a sucker for Christopher Nolan movies, and The Prestige is no exception. No, it’s not Inception or The Dark Knight, but in my mind it’s an incredible movie that fits together with er Pupone in a unique way. Michael Caine, in his role as Nolan’s perpetual muse, unwittingly describes Totti’s career through the lens of a magic trick:
"Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called "The Pledge". The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man… The second act is called "The Turn". The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call "The Prestige"."
If you ignore the melodramatic drowning at the end on the part of Mr. Jackman, the similarities are plain to see. The Pledge is Totti, an ordinary kid from Porta Metronia, who, like nearly every other boy his age, just wanted to play some football. The Turn is the past twenty years he’s spent plying his wares for Roma. Nobody of his class stays with one club for their entire professional career, let alone a boyhood club that didn’t promise trophy after trophy. Yet here we are, watching a walking anomaly play for the people of Rome for one more year.
But what’s The Prestige? Simple. It’s Totti’s return for one last year, when it’s looked like the end was near at least once a season since 2008. The Prestige will be each and every graceful pass that looks too good to be true, that must be the camera playing a trick on you. The Prestige will be each and every free kick that will slowly wash away the memories of the former Bosnian Prince. The Prestige will be each and every bead of sweat that acts as a reminder of just how much this #10 has given to i Lupi. Count yourself blessed, for you are witnessing the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one. Who will replace Totti as a Roman living legend? Will someone ever don the Roman kit and be worthy to even tie the man’s shoes? It’s too early to say, but perhaps the greatest gift the man has given to his city is his legacy as an idol of the game. With millions of posters out there featuring Totti’s visage, there’s someone out there who dreams of wearing that Roman number ten, and who knows, they may one day make their way to Rome. If that player shows even a tenth of Totti’s ability and love of the city, Roma would be too lucky.
At the end of the day, Francesco Totti is more than just a player, more than a collection of mind-blowing statistics. You can see that in the way that players speak reverently of being able to share the field with him, in the way that outrage sparked among football fans the world over when mere rumors of difficulties with contract renewal cropped up. Spending his entire career with his hometown club has meant that his trophy closet isn’t overflowing, and he certainly could have made millions upon millions more when Madrid came calling. But this has only added to his legend, and as a fake Babe Ruth once said in a 90s movie, heroes get remembered, but legends never die.