An emotional Francesco Totti admitted he is unsure “what the future looks like” after drawing a line under his 24 storied years as a Roma player.
The 40-year-old striker emerged as a second-half substitute in Roma’s final Serie A game of the season – a 3-2 victory over Genoa in the Italian capital.
Only last week did Totti confess he knew his days in Giallorossi colours were finally over and, although a six-year directorship has been tabled, he insists he is still passionate about playing and might seek a “new adventure”.
Addressing the crowd from the centre of the Stadio Olimpico pitch following full-time on Sunday, the veteran said: “At some point in life, you grow up – that’s what I’ve been told and that’s what time has decided.
“Time has tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘You can no longer enjoy the smell of the grass, the sun on your face as you bear down on the opposition’s goal, the adrenaline consuming you, the joy of celebrating’.
“It’s not easy to turn out the light. I’m afraid. It’s not the same fear you feel when you’re standing in front of the goal, about to take a penalty.
“This time, I can’t see what the future looks like through the holes of the net.
“With your support, I will succeed in turning the page and throwing myself into a new adventure.
“Being the captain of this team has been an honour. I will no longer entertain you with my feet, but my heart will always be there with you.
“Now, I will go down the stairs and enter the dressing room that welcomed me as a child and that I now leave as a man.”
Totti made his debut at the age of 16, in a league match at Brescia on March 28, 1993. He went on to make 786 appearances in all competitions for Roma, scoring 307 goals, with 250 of those coming in Serie A.
He won the Scudetto once, under Fabio Capello’s stewardship in 2001, but found himself a runner-up with the Giallorossi on no fewer than nine occasions.
On Sunday, goals from Edin Dzeko, Daniele De Rossi and Diego Perotti confirmed Roma’s qualification for the Champions League group stage after lowly Genoa threatened to hold them to a draw with efforts from 16-year-old Pietro Pellegri and Darko Lazovic.
Had the northerners managed to divide the points in Rome, Napoli would have snatched second place courtesy of their 4-2 victory at Sampdoria.
Midfielder De Rossi, who has 226 more appearances to make for Roma before he beats Totti’s record, paid tribute to his team-mate while also lending support to under-fire head coach Luciano Spalletti.
He told the Gazzetta dello Sport: “There are some people who are not normal, they do not have normal life stories, and in this case we’re talking about a football player. I read a banner that said ‘In football the real battle is to wear the same shirt for 25 years’ and it’s true.
“I know what it’s like to remain with a team for many years while not always getting exactly what you want.
“He won in another way, he won a trophy by uniting a city.”
On Spalletti, De Rossi added: “I’ve heard a lot of people say they would be happy for him to go, but I hope he doesn’t because I’d like to get to the next May 28 in the same shape we’re in now. I doubt many other coaches could do as well as him, winning 88 points and guiding us into this high finishing position.”