Book review: Francesco Totti – Gladiator

It was what English-speaking Roma fans had been itching to read for years. Now, thankfully, Francesco Totti has been able to tell his story in English with the publication of Gladiator.

When Totti released his ‘Un Capitano’ autobiography in 2018, one year after his retirement, there was no English-language edition. Three years later, his story was finally unlocked in further detail (by translator, and friend of Giallorossi Yorkshire, Anthony Wright) to fans wanting to read about it in that language. This is what lies in store for them.

There is a comforting familiarity to Totti’s story; many of the memories he shares across the pages are ones that readers will have their own clear recollections of. But his tales bring to life the people and events that fans have only been able to witness from the outside.

There is a conversational tone throughout the book. Peeling back the layers of his character, Gladiator makes Totti more personable than ever before. Elements of shyness are uncovered, while he strikes a balance between acknowledging the high regard in which he is held due to his unavoidable talent, and remaining humble. As he writes on one of the opening pages: “What have I done to be worthy of such crazy, such absolute, such excessive love?”

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After 25 years of dedication to his beloved club, there are many reasons why. What he goes on to tell – originally with the help of sportswriter Paolo Condo – shares some of them, even if he retains that line of questioning by the later chapters.

Memories from the pitch are obvious for many readers, but fresh insight comes via the way he cross-cuts them with background from his childhood. Furthermore, there is his discussion of relationships with teammates, owners and coaches, both at club and international level. Totti also uses Gladiator to uncover some club dealings like transfers that got away, which do much to spark the imagination.

The chapter dedicated to Roma’s Scudetto win of 2001 is a standout, bringing to life the journey for those who didn’t experience it first-hand. Totti provides the story of the whole course of the season and the moods that flowed throughout it, capturing an atmosphere from a happier era.

The way Totti brings in his experiences with Italy midway through the story is also not too jarring, instead providing another layer of his journey that will be of interest to perhaps a greater audience. All bases are covered, and done so appropriately.

Unexpectedly philosophical at times, Totti does not just provide a pathway into his own mind, but also takes the reader as close as he can to others’ – like his successor as Roma captain, Daniele De Rossi, and his World Cup-winning Italy manager Marcello Lippi… but never Luciano Spalletti!

Joking aside, the way he treats those final months of his career and the clashes with his coach is also well-judged and reflective, perhaps more so than in the interviews he gives. Likewise, his discussion of the chances he had to leave Roma for Real Madrid are not as monotonous as some have come to expect when he speaks to other media outlets; he conducts himself with dignity across all the pages.

The only slight shame about the book is that Totti’s story has progressed since it was published (he was still writing as a Roma director), but that would be the case for the Italian edition too – and indeed, any autobiography by someone still in their working life. This, therefore, is a snapshot of where Totti was a time when he was still processing all that was happening to him – and there is a lot of interesting material to take in.

All in all, Francesco Totti – Gladiator is translated with care to share the story that was awaited for so long. Even if it hadn’t been, this would still be a must-read for Roma fans simply because of who it is, but the fact it flows so well makes it even more essential. It has been worth the wait.

You can order Francesco Totti – Gladiator via DeCoubertin here.

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