The sun had set over the Colosseum as the banner was slowly unfurled: “You’ll leave the field … only to enter into legend.”
Francesco Totti, an emblem of undying footballing loyalty from an era gone.
After over 750 Roma appearances and 300 goals, the boy from Porta Metronia is finally bowing out, stepping out onto the Stadio Olimpico turf for the final time against Genoa on Sunday.
Roma won 3-2, with Totti making his entrance as a second-half substitute.
The 40-year-old leaves with a legacy that cannot be reflected in shining trophies behind glass cabinets.
Here is a seventh-generation Roman who was pulling on the iconic Giallorossi shirt before many of his current teammates were even born.
A Roma youth team player at 13; Serie A’s youngest ever first team captain at 22; the oldest goalscorer in the history of the Champions League at 38 years and 59 days.
A five-time Italian footballer of the year, recipient of the European Golden Shoe, and World Cup winner.
He has been described as “one of the last true Number 10s” by his compatriot, Roberto Baggio. He is simply “the God of football,” according to Italy legend Sandro Mazzola.
It stands to reason Totti would have won more titles had he departed his hometown club, but he will always be remembered as “The King of Rome.”
The Italian thrills in his first international appearance at a major international tournament, scoring against both Belgium and Romania. A “Panenka” penalty in the semifinal shootout against the Netherlands tricks Edwin van der Sar and announces Totti on the world stage. Italy fall short to France in the final — heartbreak Totti will later avenge.