TURIN (Reuters) - Some of AS Roma’s players were not even born when Francesco Totti made his debut for the club and the 36-year-old shows no signs of stopping after reaching another milestone in his remarkable career.
One of the very few one-club players in the modern game, Totti has found a second wind this season as he partners players such as Nicolas Lopez and Alessio Romagnoli, who were both born after he made his Roma debut in March 1993.
There has even been talk of an Italy recall for Totti who has not played for his country since winning the 2006 World Cup.
Tributes flowed for Totti after he converted a penalty against Genoa last Sunday to score his 225th Serie A goal to equal Gunnar Nordahl’s total and became joint highest all-time scorer in the league’s history.
“Totti is simply a champion and, like all champions, he has unimaginable resources,” said seasoned Italian coach Fabio Capello this week.
“He may have lost a bit of pace, but he has made up for that with astuteness and intelligence,” said the former AC Milan, AS Roma, Real Madrid and England coach, now with Russia.
”I was the first to use him in a more advanced attacking role because I realised that his success rate was very high every time he shot at goal.
“He can’t play forever but he can still play on for a couple more years. He can’t play in all the games, he has to understand that he can only continue at this standard if he plays in a limited number of matches.”
“But he must realise that he can’t always play; he can only continue at these levels if he appears in a certain amount of matches.”
Playing his 21st full season, Totti has had ups and downs in recent years, partly through injury and occasionally falling out of favour with coaches such as Claudio Ranieri and Luis Enrique.
Although he is not always the easiest of team mates and sullied his reputation by spitting at Denmark’s Christian Poulsen at Euro 2014, he remains an inspiration for his younger team mates and is held up as an example in Italian football.
“I had the good fortune to train him for a few months and that was an honour,” said Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, a man known for not tolerating bad behaviour, in December.
“He is an exemplary professional and is breaking all records at Roma, regardless of age. Totti is a real champion and always manages to achieve his objectives. He’s also a great man.”
Roma, who visit Udinese on Saturday (1945 GMT) have won their last three matches, with Totti scoring in the last two, to climb back up the table under interim coach Aurelio Andreazzoli, who was brought in after the sacking of Zeman Zdenek.
That has put them back up to seventh spot with 43 points, five behind third-placed AC Milan who are in the Champions League playoff spot.
Milan, who have hit a purple patch after a difficult start to the season, visit Genoa on Friday (1945)and may struggle to hold on to third place with Inter Milan and Lazio, who are both one point behind them, enjoying home matches on Sunday.
Inter, boosted by their impressive fightback to win 3-2 at Catania last Sunday, host midtable Bologna (1945) while Lazio are at home to sixth-placed Fiorentina (1945).
Juventus, six points clear at the top with 59 points, are at home to Catania (1400), who have been one of the revelations of the championship, while second-placed Napoli (53) are at Chievo (1400).
Walter Mazzarri’s team have drawn their last four matches, and their leading scorer Edinson Cavani has failed to hit the target in the last seven games in all competitions.
Editing by Clare Fallon