Totti retires - Era over for Roma captain as Monchi begins a new one

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  • Just over a week apart, two press events in the Italian capital have served to highlight the very special standing enjoyed in the city by Francesco Totti.

    Ahead of last week’s Rome derby, he unveiled some very special boots just for the occasion, with the brand he endorses sparing no expense.

    A pop-up store in the San Lorenzo district was opened just to sell them, the limited edition gold shoe displayed on marble pillars recreating the Roman numeral “X” in reference to the talismanic star’s shirt number, while an advert for the launch saw him portrayed as the eighth King of Rome.

    It was announced that just 2,500 numbered pairs were made, and the man himself of course kept those with the No10 for himself, just as he has worn that shirt for the best part of a career spanning a staggering 25 seasons.

    However, the second press conference was held to introduce Roma’s new Sporting Director Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo. Known to the footballing world as Monchi, the 48-year-old was responsible for the emergence of Sevilla as a European powerhouse, lifting no fewer than 11 trophies during his time in charge.

    Monchi’s teams won the UEFA Cup/Europa League five times while remaining competitive despite the Real Madrid-Barcelona duopoly and the emergence of Atletico Madrid, but he was much more renowned for his work on the transfer market.

    Responsible for discovering, nurturing and making an incredible profit on the likes of Sergio Ramos, Ivan Rakitic, Dani Alves and Carlos Bacca, it was perhaps the latter who personified just what Monchi was able to do.

    The Colombian striker was bought for just €7 million in 2013, fired the club to back-to-back European trophies and was then sold to AC Milan for €30 million just two seasons later.

    It is the ability to combine those two factors – turning a profit while enjoying tangible success – that Roma now hope he can continue, that Monchi will be the man to help them end the complete and total dominance Juventus have enjoyed in recent years.

    Yet during his unveiling he dropped the bombshell; Totti would be retiring. This came with little fanfare, no grand gestures, completely devoid of the pomp and circumstance that usually accompany anything related to Totti.

    Fans immediately took to social media to lament the loss of their idol, while journalists around the world leapt to write lengthy odes about his greatness and the significance of a player spending his entire career with his childhood club.

    They are right of course, and Totti deserves to be remembered as one of the very best, his playing days a testament to his love of the Giallorossi colours and the strength of that bond simply cannot be understated.

    He will retire as the man who netted the second-highest number of goals in the entire history of Serie A, as Roma’s leading scorer and appearance-maker, while he will enjoy being the player to have scored most times in the Derby della Capitale.

    Year after year he put bitter rivals Lazio to the sword, but the club he leaves behind are looking to do more than just beat their neighbours, they – like the famous Emperors to which Totti is often likened as an easy simile – want to conquer the world.

    President and owner James Pallotta wants to catapult Roma to the forefront of European football, to make them a true power within the sport and beyond.

    He dreams big, and he has clearly decided that Monchi is the leader and creator that the club needs in order to address the financial imbalance that separates them from the current elite.

    While Monchi admitted that “Francesco is Roma,” and professed that he would “love to learn even one per cent of the huge amount that he knows,” there is no escaping the fact that Totti’s exit is a momentous and significant moment in the history of the Giallorossi.

    This season had seen him moved into a far more reduced role by Luciano Spalletti, a combination of age and injury restricting him to just 323 minutes of Serie A action thus far.

    Yet every time he spoke to the press, the Coach was asked about the club captain, the role he might play in a forthcoming game or why he did not feature in the previous fixture.

    But while his incredible and audacious goals, his unbelievable first touch and his seemingly other-worldly vision will live long in the memory, this announcement – indeed this retirement – should not be seen as just the end of an era.

    Instead it is the beginning of a new one, led by Monchi and starting with a clean slate, unbeholden to the legacy of an ageing star and the long shadow he casts.

    The King of Rome might not be dead, but it looks as though he’s no longer in charge.