Retiring Roma legend Francesco Totti: 'I'm not ready to say it's over'
Roma legend Francesco Totti admitted he was "afraid" of what comes next as he bid a warm farewell to the only club of his career on Sunday.
Totti, 40, played his final match for Roma, for whom he debuted as a 16-year-old in 1993, coming on as a substitute in the 54th minute of the Giallorossi's 3-2 Champions League-clinching victory over Genoa at the Stadio Olimpico.
The Roma captain led his side to a Serie A title, two Coppa Italia crowns and two Italian Super Cups over his record 786 matches for the club in which he scored 307 goals. However, during a heartfelt send-off by the club and their fans on Sunday, the former Italy international confessed he's not ready to accept his career is over.
"We're here, the moment has arrived. Unfortunately, the moment has arrived that I hoped would never come," Totti told the crowd in his postmatch speech.
"Over the last few days, so much has been said about me, such wonderful things. You were behind me, pushing me on during difficult moments, and that's why I want to say thank you to everyone.
"I cried on my own, like crazy! You can't just forget 25 years like this. I thank everyone, even if this is not easy for me. I spoke to my wife about what these years have been like.
"I thank my mother and father, my brother, family and friends. Thank you to my wife and three children. I wanted to start from this, because I wasn't sure if I'd be able to get to the end of it."
Totti, who joined the club academy as a boy, recounted the past 28 years as a member of Roma. But admitted it was now time to "grow up."
"It is impossible to explain 28 years in a few phrases. I'd love to do it with a song or a poem, but I'm no good at those. I tried to express myself through my feet, because everything seems easier that way.
"Speaking of which, do you know my favourite toy when I was young? The football! And it still is. But at a certain point, you have to grow up. That's what they told me, that time had made its decision.
"Damn you, time! The same that on that June 17, 2001 we wanted to go so fast. I couldn't wait to hear the referee blow his whistle three times and it still gives me goosebumps now.
"Now time has come and tapped me on the shoulder, telling me I have to grow up. He said, from tomorrow, you will be an adult. Take off your shorts and boots, from now you are a man and can no longer smell the grass, feel the sun in your face, the adrenaline that consumes you and the satisfaction of celebrating.
"I asked myself over these months why I am waking up from this dream. You know when you're a child, and you're dreaming something wonderful until your mother wakes you up to go to school? You try to get back to sleep, but will never be back in that same dream. The spell is broken.
"This time it wasn't a dream, it was reality. I want to dedicate this letter to all the children who cheered me on, to those who perhaps grew up with me and became fathers.
"I like to think of my career as a fairy-tale to tell ... and this is the worst part. Now it really is over. I take off my shirt for the last time. I will fold it nicely, even if I have to admit I'm not ready to say it's over and maybe I never will be.
"Sorry if during this period I didn't give interviews or clarified my thoughts, but it's not easy to switch that light off. Now I am afraid. It's not the same fear you have in front of the goal when you need to score a penalty. This time I cannot see through the holes in the net what lies beyond.
"So allow me to be a little afraid. This time I am the one who needs you and your warmth. What you've always shown me. With your affection, I will certainly be able to turn the page and throw myself into a new adventure.
"Now is the moment to thank my teammates, Coaches, directors, Presidents, all those who worked alongside me over the years. The fans, the Curva Sud, a reference point for us Romans and Romanisti.
"Being born Roman and Romanisti is a privilege. Being captain of this team was an honour. You are and always will be in my life. I might not be able to have fun with my feet any more, but my heart will always be with you.
"Now I walk down those stairs, enter the locker room that welcomed me when I was a child and I leave now that I am a man.
"I am happy and proud to have given 28 years of my love to Roma. I love you!"
Goals from Edin Dzeko, Daniele De Rossi and Diego Perotti confirmed Roma's direct qualification to 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 teammate 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.''
Press Association contributed to this report.
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