Since “retiring” from football three years ago, apart from working alongside Monchi, Francesco Totti has kept a relatively low profile, preferring to spend time with his family and his burgeoning talent agency rather than reveling in the papers or on television. But every so often Totti pops up with insights on a development or incident from his career, but in a far reaching interview with Vanity Fair Italia, Totti opened up about the start of his career, the end of his career and virtually everything in between.
Vanity Fair were quick to note that this interview was conducted prior to the passing of Totti's father, Enzo. Translations were provided by Google and/or Football Italia.
It's an interesting interview that starts off by describing Totti's demeanor on the photo shoot—calm, serene, almost deferential—to which Totti was quick to draw an interesting parallel:
“When I enter the field, Francesco stays out and I become Totti. Because Totti has everything you need to be in there.”
It's not often that we hear Totti speak about himself in the third person, but it's not hard to understand why he'd need that dichotomy in his personal life; being as revered and exalted as he is by the people of Rome, you can't possibly live a normal life having to be that big and that heroic all the time.
On his childhood idols and initial goals, it was no surprise to see Totti cite Roma legends as his inspiration:
To be like Peppe Giannini, the captain of the Roma of my youth. I identified him as the prince of Rome, the number 10 par excellence. When they called me to the first team I asked if it was possible to share a room with Peppe. They granted it to me. It was a daydream. There, in the bed next to mine slept the person whose poster I had in my room. It made an impression on me
One would imagine that Totti provided similar inspiration to young Romans/Roma players like Alessandro Florenzi, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Elisa Bartoli and Giada Greggi, among others.
On his first Roma goal:
I felt like the children they give to the electric track of the cars. I had prepared an exultation under the south where I had been so many times to cheer, but I scored under the north and forgot it. It was a moment of happy madness. I was going left and right, I wanted wings at that moment
Totti also shared a funny story about his first paycheck:
Especially when you are young, money totally changes your life. You start thinking big and finding a fit is complex. The first large check I received on a Friday: too late to be able to change it at the bank. We hatched it in the family, like an egg, until Monday morning.
And now onto the juicy stuff, his relationship with the press, his teammates, Luciano Spalletti and the end of his playing days.
Totti was known—or at least rumored—to have requested certain teammates and certain expenditures during his time with the club. Totti dismissed those notions in quick order:
All bullshit. There is not a single team-mate or coach among the many I have known who can say to my face: “You have decided, you have asked, you have demanded”. I will always walk with my head held high because I trained on the pitch and I never said “play this or play that”.
I never asked for anything, apart from being able to win. True, I wanted to. I wanted strong players like Buffon, Thuram and Cannavaro because I had no desire to play the baby while the others were celebrating. What is the fault? Where is it?
This is a bit of a strange criticism, isn't it? Totti is right, even if he demanded better teammates, what's wrong with that? There's certainly no harm in asking and if he did demand these things, he obviously didn't demand loudly enough!
I want to make a premise: the coach chooses who to field in absolute autonomy. He is rightly in control of decisions and I have never allowed myself to question them or contest them. Then there is a discourse of humanity and there things change. The more I tried, the more he sought the break, the provocation, the quarrel or the pretext. I quickly realized that in those conditions it would be impossible to continue.
So, for the first time in 25 years of Rome, between January and February, I gave up. After having risked a physical confrontation in Bergamo, to date on the possibility of shaking his hand, he replies: «In football you are wrong, we are all wrong. Let’s say I should understand what moon I’m on that day, how I wake up, if I’m in a good mood.
Without hearing Spalletti's side of the equation, we have no choice but to take Totti at his word. Though to Totti's credit, he was on record that season admitting that he was no longer a 90 minute player, and, as I've always maintained, his limited that role that season was due in no small part to Edin Dzeko's phenomenal form in 2016-2017; there was simply no room for Totti in that side, not in any significant way at least.
On his teammates:
Some feared the reaction of the coach, who might say: ‘You stay with him’. Is sad? It’s ugly? Unfortunately he is human and fraternal relations in football are very few. That last year, however, was a nightmare. In those days I began to rethink how he behaved in the beginning, when I was the captain, the symbol, the undisputed player. And to understand that they were saying to me: “You are forty, step aside, don’t break my balls”, it hurt me.
Bit of a jenky translation, but it's funny to think of someone like El Shaarawy telling Totti not to break his balls.
And finally, Totti spoke about the end of his playing career, which nearly happened a year earlier:
I knew that sooner or later that moment would come, but I only started considering the hypothesis in the last year. In the previous season I understood that they would not want to renew my contract: however, then, every time I took over, I changed games and scored goals.
After the game against Torino, when I entered four minutes before the end, they renewed my deal by popular acclaim. I should have retired on that perfect evening, after the apotheosis, as Ilary suggested and I also thought about it.
Then, after a sleepless night, I decided to continue. Unfortunately, the relationship with him was already compromised.
It's not everyday that our patron saint gives such a candid interview—which is part of his press tour for his upcoming documentary Mi Chiamo Francesco Totti—so if you live in Italy (or presumably anywhere else in Europe) get your hands on a copy of Vanity Fair Italia to read the full interview. It's on newsstands now.