While not everything has been said and done about Totti's future in Rome, or even in the world of football, there's a chance we might face the last two months of Francesco in Roma. Like. Ever. Let's just assume the worst (we Giallorossi are good at that, no?) and act like this is indeed Totti's farewell tour, then we at Chiesa surely must go out with a bang to celebrate Il Capitano.
Therefore we gave birth to this little series called 'What If' in which we will discuss all the things that DIDN'T happen in Totti's rich career. Purely hypothetical of course. So off we go with this first piece in the line: What if... Totti had joined Real Madrid?
Let's not kid ourselves. While Totti has always declared his profound love for all things Roman, he did have multiple chances to join a bigger (yes, bigger than Roma) team that, unlike Roma, could actually compete for the big prizes each and every year. League, cup AND in Europe. A star-studded team filled with huge names. A team with a famous past. A team like...Real Madrid.
After almost 25 years, Totti's trophy cabinet looks okay, but it could have been so much more. One Scudetto, two Coppe Italia and two Supercoppe Italia, 5 prizes in Italy. Thank God he won the World Cup in 2006 with Italy to give his palmares some more prestige. A Champions League or Europa League/UEFA Cup was never in sight, not even close. A shame because other less talented players won it at least once: Sulley Muntari, Gary Cahill, John O'Shea, Ibrahim Afellay to name a few.
It's painful to discuss, but Totti has been a runner-up at least sixteen times in his career. An astonishing eight times in Serie A (remember Rudi's first seasons at the club or after Calciopoli). That's sad. So especially we, the fans, should be grateful that Francesco stayed in Rome after all this time. But in return the fans adore Er Pupone and he would never be as idolized or as loved as in Rome. Not in Madrid, not in America, not in China, not on Mars or Pluto.
Yet, there were some dangerous rumors back in the day (2003) when Totti still had long hair. There were rumors that Totti was pondering his Roman future and he was tempted by the 'Galacticos' from Real Madrid. A list of players who featured in Real's squad that moment: Ronaldo (the Brazilian one), Figo, Raul, Beckham, Casillas, Roberto Carlos, Zidane, Ivan Helguera, Cambiasso and Guti. Damn. Compare that with Roma's team from the same year and you know why Totti had a hard time and was almost lured to Madrid.
Yeah, we had Montella, Delvecchio, Emerson, Cassano and Samuel. But also Dacourt, Lima, Carew, Pelizzoli, Dellas and Zebina. Roma ended, you guessed it, second in Serie A. This begs for the question: What if Francesco indeed joined Real in 2003 or 2004?
He would have shared the pitch with all those stars I mentioned before. Just imagine a fronline of Ronaldo, Raul, Figo, Zidane and Totti? Absolutely bonkers. AS Roma on the other hand, would miss a Totti in his prime. A Totti that was a Ballon d'Or contender.
In 2003-2004 he arguably had his second best season in Serie A in which he scored 20 goals and gave numerous assists in 31 games. It's safe to say a Totti-less Roma would not end second that year, maybe not even in a European spot. Also, in the seasons that followed, Totti was his usual self and very important/decisive for a Roma side that hunted a second Scudetto, only to be halted by Conte's Juventus and Mancini and Mourinho's Inter.
After 2004, a then 21-year-old Daniele De Rossi would be hailed as the new captain but could he be as influential as Totti? Who could take his place and lead Roma to glory? Nigerian talent Wahab? Or Gaetano D'Agostino? Or better yet, maybe Roma would simply buy another Totti with his money. But who? If he indeed left us, then there were suddenly a tonload of question marks. You see, Totti is Roma's greatest icon and is very vital for the team, not only on the pitch but also next to it. Shirt sales, marketing, billboards, sponsors, media,...
But at Real, Francesco could actually have a realistic shot at the Champions League, instead of struggling to make the competition's group phase on a yearly basis. Even though Real didn't win the CL between 2002 and 2013, a Real with Totti could have been a totally different beast and an even bigger threat for Barcelona or Atletico in Spain.
Since 2005, and without Totti, the Blancos won three titles, two Champions Leagues, twice the Coppa del Rey and twice the European Supercup. Count a few more prizes if they had Totti supporting Ronaldo or Raul and later Van Nistelrooy and Higuain up front. Would he still be playing by the age of 40? I don't know, maybe he decided to return to Roma one last time by 2010 or 2012. One thing's certain: Both his and Roma's paths would have been a lot different if he put pen to paper in 2003.
I was just a pimple-faced teenager in 2003 and recently started supporting La Maggica. While also Montella, Cassano and Tommasi were among my favorites back then, Totti had a big influence in my decision to keep following and writing about Roma. Up to this very day. And for that I'm grateful. Grateful that Francesco decided to follow his heart and not money.
Grazie Pupone, it wouldn't be the same without you.