Playing for the same club for 25 years is no mean feat. Totti’s longevity at the top, with his beloved club, is something unlikely to be matched ever again.
Totti’s time with Roma can be emphasised by bringing to light the many things that have changed since his debut. The world is a different place to what it was in March 1993, when the fresh-faced 16-year-old was brought on for his Roma debut against Brescia. Those in attendance that day couldn’t have imagined what they were witnessing the beginning of.
As Totti’s career continued well into his 30s and early 40s, he began to play with and against some great players who hadn’t even been born when he made his debut. In a 4-3-2-1 formation, here is a lineup of the best he shared a pitch with.
GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma
Like Totti, Donnarumma broke into the first team at his club at the age of just 16. The Italian has been virtually ever-present for AC Milan since, being heralded as one of the most promising keepers in European football. Totti played against Donnarumma twice – initially as a substitute in a 1-1 draw in January 2016, and again in May that year in a 3-1 win for Roma, the final game of the season.
Brazilian defender Marquinhos spent one season playing with Francesco Totti and Roma, 2012-13, in which his reputation grew considerably. After proving himself as a skilled and versatile defender, Marquinhos earned a move to PSG in summer 2013.
CB: Raphael Varane
When Roma came up against Real Madrid in the 2016 Champions League Round of 16, Totti faced the club he had come close to joining 10 years earlier. Lining up against him was French defender Varane, who played all 90 minutes of the first leg. Totti was given a standing ovation at the Bernabeu in the return fixture. Just as Totti had in 2006, Varane became a World Cup winner in 2018.
CB: Mattia Caldara
Caldara came through the ranks at Atalanta, before moving to Juventus, and then AC Milan. It was during his time with Atalanta that he featured against Totti, just weeks before Roma’s favourite son retired. Totti only made a brief cameo in the draw, but it’s still enough for Caldara to be able to say he’s played against the legend.
LB: Emerson Palmieri
The other full-back in this team was also a teammate of Totti’s, rather than an opponent. Emerson Palmieri came to Roma in August 2015, giving him two seasons in which he could share the pitch with Totti. His final appearance alongside Totti came against Chievo, the penultimate game of the 2016-17 season. A week later, Emerson was brought off injured in Totti’s last game before the captain came on.
CM: Leandro Paredes
Another creative player who lined up in the same team as Totti on several occasions, Paredes spent the 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons with Roma. In between that time, he had a loan spell with Empoli, although Totti did not play against him in either of the games that season. A deep-lying playmaker, Paredes was sold to Zenit in 2017.
CM: Franck Kessie
A player that could reportedly have joined Roma, but chose Milan instead, the dynamic Kessie played against Totti and Roma while with Atalanta in 2017. Like Caldara, he played the entire game in the April matchup, in which Totti came on as a late sub.
CM: Mateo Kovacic
Kovacic seems to have been around for a long time, but is still only 24. Back in October 2013, when he was still a teenager and played for Inter, the Croatian midfielder came on as a substitute in a 3-0 Roma win. Totti scored two goals that day. In the return fixture, neither player featured, while they met again once the following season.
AM: Federico Bernardeschi
Roma and Fiorentina met five times after Bernardeschi’s debut for La Viola without him playing on the same pitch as Totti, but that changed on 4th March 2016, when Totti came off the bench in a 4-1 Roma win. Both players wore number 10, but only one could be on the winning side, and that was Totti. They met again the next season, both coming off the bench, but that time it was Bernardeschi who saw his side gain the three points, via a 1-0 scoreline.
AM: Paulo Dybala
In terms of playing style, Dybala is probably the most similar player to Totti in this lineup. Also a creative number 10, the Argentinian attacker was lighting up Serie A as a youngster with Palermo in the 2012-13 and 2014-15 seasons. His path crossed with Totti’s twice in that first season, but not in the second year. However, he played against Totti for another side when he met him as a Juventus player in May 2017, a 3-1 win for Roma in which both players came on as subs.
ST: Andrea Belotti
Like Dybala, Belotti lined up against Totti for two different clubs, of which the first was also Palermo. In May 2015, with Dybala left on the bench, both Totti and Belotti scored on the final day of the season. The latter’s goal came deep into stoppage time, sealing a 2-1 win for the Sicilian side. After moving to Torino, Belotti played against Totti three times – one of which was the infamous game in which Totti scored two late goals from the bench to turn the game around to a 3-2 Roma win.
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