Totti: A legend turns 40

Giving yourself gifts on your birthday may sound like a strange thing to do, but when it comes to setting impressive records, it is difficult, if not impossible, to turn down the opportunity.

Francesco Totti broke through the 250-goal barrier in Serie A during Roma’s match against Turin on Sunday, just two days before his 40th birthday. Only former Lazio and Juventus striker Silvio Piola found the target more times in Italy’s top flight, scoring 290 times in total. Totti has now netted a remarkable 306 goals in 763 games in all competitions for his beloved team.

"I was born in Rome; I’m a Roman and a Romanista through and through," said the man for whom this historic club’s shirt is like a second skin. When he removes it, his tattoos – including an ancient Roman gladiator – show that the city and the team have literally worked their way under the Giallorossi captain’s skin.

Born in the Appio Latino district, Totti does not just play for his club – he fights for it, lives for it and would do almost anything for it. "Even when I had several opportunities to move, I always said that there was only one team whose shirt I wanted to wear during my career," he once told "I was born a Roman and a Roma fan, and that’s how I’ll die. Besides, I don’t know how I’d have explained it to my kids. My love for the club has always been more powerful than any offers."

Totti has been piling up goals and records ever since his early days in a Roma shirt. He is the most-capped player in the history of the club and its record goalscorer, as well as scoring more goals for one team than any other player in Italian football history.

In 2014, officials at the Museo delle Cere waxwork museum in Rome decided that it was time to pay tribute to the 2006 world champion. Sculptor Francesca Romana Di Nunzio created a life-size figure that is now among the museum’s main attractions.

Admiration for Totti extends well beyond the Eternal City’s walls, as his introduction as a substitute in the 74th minute of Roma’s UEFA Champions League match against Real Madrid in March showed. The legendary Santiago Bernabeu rose as one to applaud, while Madrid’s Marcelo and Casemiro took the opportunity to personally welcome the one-club man onto the pitch to show their respect for his sporting life’s work.

As well as winning the Italian championship in 2001, the Giallorossi captain lifted the World Cup Trophy with the Squadra Azzurra at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ – but did not hesitate when asked which of these moments he would most like to relive. "The Scudetto with Roma, without a doubt," he replied. "That was joy like no other."

Totti’s relationship with the national team began in Udine in 1998, where he appeared in a 2-0 win over Switzerland. Within a few months he had become an indispensable member of the Italy squad, particularly at EURO 2000, where the Azzurri only lost the final 2-1 to France thanks to a golden goal.

The years that followed were less illustrious for the proud Roman. After working extremely hard to recover from a fibula fracture in 2006, he was unable to leave his usual mark on the Squadra’s performances at Germany 2006 despite playing in all six matches. "I bowed out with a World Cup winners’ medal, second place at EURO 2000 and a title with the U-21s," he reflected in 2007 after winning 58 international caps and scoring nine goals in an Italy shirt.

Totti is a playmaker with perfect technique, capable of the most audacious chips and heel flicks. Despite never being a particularly enthusiastic runner, he still knows how to captivate crowds with his ingenious passing and unwavering ability to read the game. "Football is passion and joy,” he explained. “We have to try and show these feelings every time we walk out on the pitch."

As long as that joy and passion continues to burn brightly, it seems that there is no end in sight for the 40-year-old’s career. "I’m doing well, why should I hang up my boots?” he said recently. “The head is very important when it comes to staying at a certain level. If your mind is free, you can achieve anything. As long as I feel fit and can help the team, I’ll continue to pull on this shirt with immense pride. I’ll be the first to call it a day when I no longer feel that’s the case. I believe in my potential. It’s important to make the effort required to stay in shape – leading a healthy lifestyle and behaving like a true professional." His coach Luciano Spalletti confirmed this, saying: "He can still play for a long time if he keeps training like he does right now."

With Totti not yet contemplating retirement, he still has plenty of time to bring joy to the club he loves. And when the time eventually comes to bid farewell to the Stadio Olimpico faithful, he will turn his attention and dedication to the clothing label he created with his wife. The brand’s name is “Never Without You” – a perfect encapsulation of the legend’s relationship with his beloved Roma.