Francesco Totti tipped for World Cup
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has said that veteran Francesco Totti's resurgence would seal him a place in the Azzurri squad were next year's World Cup finals to start this month.
Totti, 37, may be entering the twilight of his career yet his recent performances in Serie A -- where he has helped lead Roma to the top of the table to seven consecutive victories at the start of the season -- mean he would be worthy of a place on the national team, even if the last time he pulled on an Italy shirt was more than six years ago.
"If the World Cup were to start within 20 days, I wouldn't have any doubt about it -- Totti would be coming to the World Cup," Prandelli said. "We'll assess his physical condition a month before the World Cup, without forgetting the group which have taken us to qualification, and we'll take a definite decision then."
Totti appears open to a recall to the Squadra Azzurra, despite announcing his retirement from international football in 2007. According to his World Cup-winning teammate from 2006, Marco Materazzi, the issue could be on the agenda again for Euro 2016, and even the 2018 World Cup.
"With the feet he's got, he could play on until he's 45," the former Inter Milan defender said. "What he's doing does not surprise me. Maybe it could surprise somebody who looks at his ID card, but what he does on the field is totally natural."
While Totti could be taken along to the World Cup merely for his experience and presence in the dressing room, Prandelli does not feel there would be any problems accommodating him in an attack which has seen Giampaolo Pazzini, Alberto Gilardino and Antonio Cassano all try unsuccessfully to form a reliable partnership to Mario Balotelli.
"Certainly a player like Totti could play with anybody," continued Prandelli. "It would have to be the others who would have to partner him. A Totti in this kind of form, a fantastic Totti, cannot fail to make you think."
With all the clamour for Totti to return to the national team, it would be easy to forget about some of the other ageing pretenders for a ticket to Brazil.
Antonio Cassano was in the Italy team swept aside by Spain in the final of Euro 2012. Since then, he has not received a phone call from Prandelli, but that does not necessarily mean that, after participating in three European Championships, he is not going to experience his first World Cup next summer, according to his coach at Parma Roberto Donadoni.
The former Italy boss would have no doubts about calling Cassano up in light of his performance against Sassuolo at the weekend.
"For the World Cup, all I can say is that if Antonio carries on playing at this level, it’s going to be hard not to consider him," Donadoni said. "I think it’s only positive for Prandelli to have available players who are no longer green and who can show that they can still perform at the highest level, like Cassano, Totti or Toni."
"They are experienced players with quality and hunger, and the national team coach will make up his mind."
One of the factors Prandelli says he will be considering most is the physical condition of the players. "We’re going to need athletes more than footballers," he said after the experience of the Confederations Cup in the summer.
According to Donadoni, Cassano can also tick that box. "He’s working hard and, since the start of pre-season training, he’s lost at least seven or seven and a half kilos," he told Radio 24. "This shows the willingness he has to get people talking about him again and to show everybody what a champion he is."
However, prior to that game against Sassuolo, there was more talk about Cassano being dropped after a disappointing start to his Parma career. The 31-year-old has scored only twice in Parma’s first seven games of the season, failing to have the impact expected of him, until Sunday.