In an exclusive interview with The Guardian, the former Italy international explained that the reason he spent his entire footballing career at AS Roma was because of his love for the club he supported as a boy.
Totti made his senior debut with Roma in 1992 and would play over 600 games in his 25-year stay at the club.
He played predominantly as an attacking midfielder and was considered one of the very best in his position at the time. He was subject to interest from many of Europe’s best clubs, including Real Madrid and Inter Milan. Still, He stayed at the Italian capital for all his playing days, even rejecting a move to the United States to play in the MLS later in his career.
And now the man who was hailed by Diego Maradona as “the best player I have ever seen” has revealed the reasoning behind his decision to stay in Rome.
Speaking to the Guardian, Totti insists that he has no regrets, despite passing several opportunities to win titles with other clubs.
He says that he gladly will not swap the single Scudetto he won with Roma for several titles with another club.
“Sitting here now thinking about regrets–’I could have done this, I could have said that–it’s not how I am,” Totti told the Guardian.
“I did the most I could, and I took everything there was to take from it.”
Totti claims that the city of Roma has a special appeal for him and influenced many of the decisions he made as a player.
“The city where you are born is always the most beautiful,” he says.
“That’s true for everyone – the place where you are from has a different appeal. Even if Rome, for me, really is the most beautiful city in the world.
“In the end, we are all equal. Some more, some less.”
Totti captained Roma for several years and is what Italians refer to as a Bandiera–a footballer whose devotion to their club is such that they become its living symbol.
He had several opportunities to leave the Italian side for bigger paycheques in other leagues. But according to him, his love for football, and not money, was his motivation, unlike these days when footballers move for money.
“I started out in different times. A different football,” he says.
“A football made of love, of affection toward fans. Playing for the team, I always supported. It was a lot easier for me to make this choice. Twenty-five years in one team is no small thing, and being the captain, being one of the most important players, you always need to measure up. But to make a comparison between my time and today, it’s difficult. Today it’s more business. You go where you can make more money. And that’s fair enough, no?”
AC Milan were the first club that tried persuading Totti to leave Roma as early as when he was 12-year-old. In 2006 Real Madrid also offered him a contract that would have made him the best-paid player in the world, but Totti stayed put.
Speaking about the incidents, Totti said:
“[AC Milan were] the most exciting team I’d ever seen, the only one I fantasised about playing in”.
Even if his parents had taken the money Milan offered at the time, Totti insists that he would still have turned down the offer.
“The decisions were always made by me, with my own head. Often your parents will give you advice. And it’s right to listen to them. But then, in the end, being so young, I knew I had time and a future in front of me.”
Speaking about the Madrid offer, Totti said;
“Of course I thought about it,” says Totti.
“Let’s say that there were quite a few days in which we had one foot in and one foot out. Then, I’ve said, often and truthfully, that the choice to stay with Roma was made from the heart. In those moments, when you feel like this, you can’t walk away.”
“Real Madrid were the only other team that I could have gone to play for. The only team it could have been, I think. An experience in a different country could have been something beautiful for everyone. For my family. For me”
Totti retired from Roma in 2017 and holds the all-time scoring record for the club with 307 goals.