By Paolo Menicucci
It may not have been a vintage year for Francesco Totti, but the last game of 2004 saw the AS Roma captain claim two goals in a 5-1 win against Parma FC to become the Giallorossi's all-time top scorer.
'It was unforgettable'
"For a moment it was a like we had won the Scudetto," the 28-year-old beamed after scoring his 108th goal with the Giallorossi, eclipsing Roberto Pruzzo who scored the equaliser in Roma's 1983/84 European Champion Clubs' Cup final defeat by Liverpool FC. "It was unforgettable, and I'll take that happiness with me forever."
Totti, who has spent his entire career at the club, did not mind getting booked for taking his shirt off to celebrate his landmark 107th strike. Underneath, Totti was wearing a white t-shirt emblazoned with the words '107... all for you [Roma]' on it - the same t-shirt all the ball-boys in the stadium were wearing when they ran on to the pitch to celebrate the captain's goal.
Meanwhile, the crowd at the Olimpico welcomed Totti's new record with a two-minute standing ovation. "I hope to stay here for many more years and continue scoring more goals but
I will surely remember this moment forever," Totti said.
This great joy brought an end to a difficult year for the Italian international. He failed to live up to expectations at UEFA EURO 2004™ after being banned for three games for spitting at Denmark's Christian Poulsen in the Azzurri's first match of the tournament, while the new season did not begin well for his club.
Roma failed to qualify from the UEFA Champions League group stage earning only one point in six games, while in Serie A the Giallorossi are seventh, 16 points behind leaders Juventus FC in a season which has seen them go through three coaches -Cesare Prandelli, Rudi Völler and Luigi Del Neri - since the departure of Fabio Capello in the summer.
Totti, however, continues to impress and has already scored ten goals in the 14 games he has played this term. 'Il Pupone' - the Big Kid - made his debut in Serie A back in 1993 when he was just 16, scoring his first goal in a game against Foggia Calcio the following year and has now been with the Giallorossi for 13 consecutive seasons. Last term he scored 20 goals - a personal record.
Selling Totti would be like selling the Colosseum," said Capello last year. However, rumours persist that the 2004/05 season could be Totti's last with the club. Totti himself admitted he would consider leaving Roma if the team failed to challenge for honours next term.
"I've just stated the usual things: I want a team able to compete on a high level," he explained. "I have received offers from interested parties, but my priority would always be to remain at Stadio Olimpico. I am waiting for signals and plans from the club, because this city deserves a competitive side."
Roma will definitely try to convince their captain to stay. "He's justified in saying that he wants to play in a great side and we will do everything possible to build a great Roma and keep Totti here with us," said Rosella Sensi, Roma's managing director and daughter of president Franco Sensi. If Roma are to become title challengers again, it is hard to imagine them doing so without their captain and all-time top scorer on board.
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