Having pulled off a shock underdog victory over Juventus this weekend, Roma helped in pulling the Serie A title race back into contention, largely thanks to the tremendous efforts of club legend, Francesco Totti.
The five-time Italian Footballer of the Year has already proven over a 24-year Roma career just why he’ll forever live on in the Rome outfit’s history books—but it’s contributions like Saturday's that prove why Totti still has so much more to offer.
With a five-point gap between them and second place Napoli, league leaders Juventus were threatening to begin a runaway stretch akin to that of the 2011-12 campaign.
However, it was the work of Totti that prevented Antonio Conte’s men from opening up the kind of breathing space they so desperately sought—in so doing, Totti also gave new life to Roma’s campaign under Aurelio Andreazzoli.
In the first 30 minutes of the capital clash, Roma struggled to develop close to anything in terms of attacking pressure and were largely pinned inside their own territory; a practice Juve have become used to when facing lesser opposition.
That said, a 31st-minute yellow card initiated a turning point in the fixture when two of Italy’s most memorable, active servants, Andrea Pirlo and the aforementioned Totti, clashed—the former came off the worse of the pair.
A swinging Totti boot scraped Pirlo’s knee—while it’s never acceptable to condone foul play on the pitch, the 36-year-old will undoubtedly look at this yellow card in particular as an acceptable penalty setback.
With Pirlo seemingly rocked, a growingly frustrated Totti looked to be the constant mentor that his teammates needed—he remained optimistic, despite his side’s poor standing in the game.
It was in the minutes leading up to halftime that the game appeared to float more handsomely in Roma’s favour and, slotting in behind the leading figure of Pablo Osvaldo, Totti’s puppeteer-like playmaking provided the ideal platform for the second period.
According to WhoScored.com, Totti racked up a touch tally of 81, second only to Daniele De Rossi within his own side and fourth in the match overall, as Martin Cacares and Andrea Pirlo boasted a huge involvement.
In his 88-minute display, The Gladiator also weighed in with a leading four key passes, at least two more than any other player on the evening.
Of course, Totti’s most memorable contribution will assuredly be the goal that delighted Napoli fans around the world and reminded those watching of other Totti finishes just like it.
Lurking from the edge of the area and ready to pounce from a Miralem Pjanic free kick, Totti lashed home a ferocious effort from just outside of the area with the kind of reflexes that, while slightly clichéd, some players just appear to be born with.
While one would argue that the ball sat up comfortably for the veteran, there was still quite a bit to be done to open the scoring—there’s few in the Italian top flight you’d rather have on the end of such an opportunity.
As the game progressed, it became clear that new tact was required to see out the win and Andreazzoli’s malleability proved fruitful in the end.
With the experience that seems not too uncommon in Serie A, Totti’s pedigree in surviving situations such as this proved its weight in gold, and the forward’s ability to sit back and help in defence was at the crux of Roma’s final 20 minutes.
It was here that the goalscorer showed that, while not the strongest defender, Totti’s presence boosts morale as much as any tackle can, giving his side the means to continue their counter-attacking strategy and claim all three points against the reigning Serie A champions.
With nine goals and 10 assists already this season, Francesco Totti's performances are testament to the old adage that age is just a number and that there’s a lot to be said for those “on the wrong side of 30.”
20 years after making his Roma debut, the one-club man with more than 650 appearances to his name is influencing Serie A matters as much as any, and most recently set the Juventus title bid back a couple of steps, making for a much more exciting run in.