ROME (Reuters) - He has barely played this season and will almost certainly start on the substitutes bench, yet Francesco Totti will still be the centre of attention when his side AS Roma face off with neighbours Lazio for their fourth derby of the season.
Totti is in his 25th season at the only professional club he had ever played for - and, even now, there is a wave of excitement whenever it looks like the 40-year-old is about to come on for a late cameo.
“When you’re at the stadium for a game ... and the fans see him warm up, they go crazy,” said Edin Dzeko, the team’s leading scorer this season. “The atmosphere cranks up a notch.”
Totti, who is on a one-year contract, has said would not discuss his future until the end of the season.
It is widely expected that Sunday’s match will be his last apperance at a derby - though is hard to imagine the club turning him down if he decides he wants to continue.
So far, he has faced Lazio 43 times, scored 11 times against them. He has been on the winning side 15 times in the derby and the losing side 16, with 12 draws.
“Every derby is special when you think about the build-up and excitement in the city,” said Totti, who has made 14 Serie A appearances this season, most of them just a few minutes long, but still scored twice.
One of his favourite goals was the volley which helped Roma draw 2-2 after they had trailed 2-0 in a match two years ago and made him the fixture’s alltime leading scorer.
He famously celebrated by borrowing a camera and taking a selfie in front of the Roma supporters.
“I don’t usually take selfies but I broke an important record and wanted it to be a moment I would remember,” he explained. “It was a great goal – the photo was not as great, but it’s OK.”
“Rome is the most beautiful city in the world,“ he added. ”From one moment to the next, it takes your breath away with narrow streets and stunning scenery.
”Sure, I might have won more trophies elsewhere but my loyalty to Roma was like winning the Champions League to me.”
Roma are second in the table but are eight points behind leaders Juventus, who visit Atalanta on Friday, with five games left to play and are seen as having little chance of catching the Turin side.
Their main focus is holding on to second place which would earn them a place in the Champions League group stage next season.
Lazio are fourth, which would earn a Europa League spot, but with little hope of catching Napoli in third.
The two sides recently met twice in their Coppa Italia semi-final with Lazio going through 4-3 on aggregate after winning the first leg 2-0 - their first win over Roma in eight attempts.
Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Andrew Heavens