WATCH: Maldini And Beckham Pay Tribute To Francesco Totti
It may be a cliched expression but it really will be the end of an era for AS Roma, this Sunday, when Il Capitano, the man who led the Giallorossi to only their third Scudetto and sits second in the all time Serie A goal scoring charts, Francesco Totti, leads the team onto the Stadio Olimpico pitch for the 786th and final time.
The 40-year-old made an official statement on his future, yesterday where he didn't clear up if he was actually retiring or not, mentioning a 'new challenge', which some have taken to mean that the World Cup winner is indeed going to be moving to a new club. The more likely move, however, is upstairs into a director's position, with a six-year contract already offered by the Roma hierarchy.
Unsurprisingly, there has been an outpouring of tributes from Totti's former teammates and opponents since Il Gladiatore made his announcement, with Paolo Maldini and David Beckham among the iconic names who have been professing their love for the Eternal City's favourite son.
A fellow one club man and ex-Italian national teammate, Maldini came up against Totti multiple times during his glittering career, while Beckham lined up opposite the Roma skipper during his two loan spells as a Milan player between 2008 and 2010.
Former Milan captain Maldini, who won a remarkable five European Cups as leader of the Rossoneri, admits that Totti 'wound him up' a few times but also shares a great story about how he left Il Captiano's mouth agape with his passing ability.
"We were playing away at Roma and the ball was bobbling. I was struggling and he was closing me down, but I played a gorgeous first-time ball forward with my right foot and he said to me, 'Woah, what a ball that is!'"
"And now, the end is near..." It's almost time for Francesco Totti to bring a close to his incredible AS Roma career. Image: PA
Beckham, meanwhile, reveals that he had the option to join Roma, rather than Milan, on loan during his time as an LA Galaxy player and that Totti was one of the main reasons he was tempted to move to the Stadio Olimpico.
"There was an opportunity for me to join Roma when I was in America.
"One of the biggest reasons that I was very tempted was because of Francesco.
"To play in a team with him would have been very special. It's always very special when you're on the field playing against him."
Wherever Totti ends up after Sunday's final game, against Genoa, we're just glad we've had the ridiculously good fortune to enjoy him for the last 24 years.
If only it could be for another 24.
Featured Image Credit: AS Roma