Italian legend Francesco Totti in a Miami FC jersey? Don’t be surprised.
Totti, who played his final match for Roma Sunday after 25 years with the club, is considering extending his career with Miami FC, according to several Italian media reports.
On the surface, a move from Serie A to the second-division NASL might seem unlikely for the Roman icon, but Miami FC’s deep Italian roots make it an enticing option.
Totti, 40, is a close friend of Miami FC coach Alessandro Nesta. They were teammates on Italy’s World Cup winning team in 2006, and have remained in touch over the years. Also, the club’s part-owner is former Italian national team player Paolo Maldini.
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Miami FC officials, preparing for Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup game against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, declined comment on the Totti rumors.
Roma’s American owner, James Pallotta, offered Totti an unspecified management position, but the midfielder made it clear he was not quite ready to hang up his boots and that it was not his idea to retire from the club.
“Roma-Genoa, Sunday 28th May 2017. The last time I can wear Roma's jersey,” Totti said before Sunday’s game. “I can't tell you in a few words how much these colors meant, mean and will always mean to me.
“I just feel that my love for football never fades; it's a passion, my passion. It's so deep I can't imagine not fueling it any longer. Ever. From Monday, I'm ready to go again. I'm ready for a new challenge.”
That new challenge could be at FIU’s Riccardo Silva Stadium, adding a wealth of experience and leadership to a first-place Miami FC team that is in its second year of existence. Miami hosts the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night, with the winner advancing to a game against an MLS team.
“They are our biggest rivals, so we’re going to leave everything on the line for the right to get the next big prize, the chance to play an MLS team,” said Miami FC midfielder Michael Lahoud. “Our ambition is to beat an MLS team and send shockwaves through the country, show that we can go toe-to-toe with the big boys. First, we have to beat Tampa Bay.”
Lahoud said he had no knowledge of any deal with Totti, but would be honored to play alongside him. “He’s one of the best of all time,” he said.
Totti appeared in 785 matches with Roma, third all-time in Italy for most games with a single club behind only Maldini (902 with AC Milan) and Javier Zanetti (858 with Inter Milan). He ranks second all-time in goals scored in Serie A with 250, 24 shy of Silvio Piola’s record (1929-54).
He made his debut with Roma at age 16 in 1993, and six years later, at age 22, became the youngest-ever captain in Serie A history. He had many big-money offers over the years, but remained loyal to Roma. His farewell speech at Estadio Olimpico on Sunday left Totti and the crowd of 70,000 in tears.
“To the children of yesterday, who have grown up and become parents and to the children of today, who perhaps shout `Tottigol,’ I’d like to thank you, my career has become a fairytale for you to pass on. It’s really over now. I’m taking off that jersey for the final time. I’ll fold it away, even though I’m not ready to say `enough’ and perhaps I never will be...
“It’s not easy to turn out the light. I’m afraid. It’s not the same fear you feel when you’re standing in front of the goal, about to take a penalty. This time, I can’t see what the future looks like through the holes of the net...With your support, I will succeed in turning the page and throwing myself into a new adventure.”
Time will tell whether that adventure begins in Miami.
Miami FC vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
What: U.S. Open Cup, third round (winner plays an MLS team)
When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: FIU Riccardo Silva Stadium
Tickets: $5 adults, 12-under free