The Bernabéu prepares a send off for Francesco Totti
The enigmatic Italian has taken to the Madrid turf on five occasions: first in a testimonial game for Butragueño in 1995 and four more times in the Champions League.
“I always dreamed of playing [at the Bernabéu]. I admired Real Madrid as a boy. They had players with great mentalities: Butragueño, Míchel, Sanchís, Hugo Sánchez, Schuster… They were the en vogue players in Europe at the time. Ever since then I’ve had a lot of affection for them as a team”. The words of Francesco Totti (Roma, 27-9-1976) back in October 2001 on the cusp of making his inaugural competitive appearance at the Madrid stadium. Oddly enough, the Giallorossi legend made his Champions League debut against Los Blancos on 11 September of that year, a day that changed the course of modern history. Despite the tragedy of the events elsewhere, the young midfielder marked his first run in with the Spanish giants with a goal.
This evening will be his sixth visit to the Concha Espina ground. He first walked out onto the Madrid turf for a very special friendly match on 15 June 1995 as Madrid honoured their loyalist of servants, Emilio Butragueño. A still wet-behind-the-ears Totti played the full 90 minutes that day as the Italians ran out to a 4-0 defeat. His first competitive fixture (2001) in the Spanish capital ended 1-1. He got the winner with his next bite of the cherry (2002): “That was the best match I’ve ever played. It holds special significance because we were up against the European champions”, the elated midfielder said after the full-time whistle (0-1).
His third competitive match at the Bernabéu, 2004, was a deflating experience as Roma saw a two-goal lead evaporate against a Galáctico side that finished the match 4-2 with an impressive turnaround. He was able to exact revenge during his last outing away to Real Madrid though, in 2008, as Roma overcame Bernd Schuster’s charges 1-2.
In spite of the recent, publically-aired problems the 39-year-old has had with Luciano Spalletti (sparked because of comments the coach made in an exclusive interview with AS), Totti is expected to at least get a run out tonight. The Bernabéu has always shown footballing icons from other teams great respect. The Los Blanco faithful gave Del Piero a standing ovation in 2008 and Pirlo was fervently applauded last season. Should Spalletti see fit to involve the enigmatic number 10 tonight, a cachophony of appreciation will reverberate around the stadium for Il Capitano.