Totti eyes World Cup comeback with Italy

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles
Francesco Totti (Photo: Roberto Vicario)

Francesco Totti (Photo: Roberto Vicario)

Francesco Totti, Rome’s greatest general since Julius Caesar, has recently announced that he would welcome a return to the international scene for this summer’s World Cup in South Africa.

Er Pupone took an extended break from international duty after Italy’s World Cup glory in 2006. He cited a reoccurring injury as the main incentive for ruling himself out of playing for Italy again.

Originally intended to be a year-long break from the national side, the AS Roma legend decided to concentrate solely on club football as he strives to win another Scudetto before his contract expires in 2014.

The less demanding fixture schedule has allowed Totti to prosper for Roma. He boasts an enviable goal record over the past four seasons. In Serie A he has made 96 appearances, finding the net on a 62 occasions.

He has also cemented his name in Italian folklore, currently the eighth top goalscorer in Serie A of all time. With the midfielder in rich form this season and three years left on his contract, he will climb a few more places on that illustrious list.

Without Totti the Azzurri have failed to prosper. Italy limped to top spot in their World Cup qualifying group, achieving automatic qualification to the main event in a largely unconvincing manner.

The Republic of Ireland highlighted the weaknesses in this Azzurri team. Giovanni Trapattoni’s side frustrated the reigning world champions both home and away as Italy failed to navigate their way past a resolute Irish unit.

Their performance in last summer’s Confederations Cup is a further example of the frailties of this current Italian side: humbled by Egypt and embarrassed by Brazil, they lack creativity in midfield and often appear to be missing an inspirational figure capable of changing a match.

Respected journalist Paddy Agnew, stresses the qualities that the Roma icon brings to the team.

“It was clear from the World Cup qualifiers that Italy needs someone like Totti because with the exception of Andrea Pirlo the side is seriously lacking in players who have creative flair and vision, and can turn a game around,” he said.

Marcello Lippi has pursued a 4-3-3 formation in recent years, enjoying mixed success. However, with the availability of Totti the Italian manager could be tempted to revert to the more orthodox 4-4-2.

The tactic proved fruitful in Germany in 2006 when Totti enjoyed a free role on the left side of midfield with Italy reaping the rewards.

With the national side producing laboured performances and receiving much criticism from both the domestic and international media, Francesco Totti now appears ready to make a return to the international scene.

Earlier this month, Totti revealed that he is ‘open’ to a comeback. In an interview with La Repubblica, he said: “I will decide in April, if Marcello Lippi calls me up, if I am fit and if the team wants me, I will go.”

The decision now lies with Lippi in whether to enlist the 33-year-old in his 23-man travelling squad to South Africa. It would certainly come as an added boast to Italian national team.

Surprisingly, Totti’s announcement was met with a relatively muted response from the Italian media and fans. The Roma captain’s restoration to the Italian set up was inevitable.

Indeed it seems increasingly likely that Totti will return in time for South Africa, provided he can stay free of injury.

And Lippi has paved the way for Totti’s return, saying he would welcome him back, speaking of the respect he had for the player. In an interview with Il Messaggero, Lippi proclaimed: “I love him [Totti] as a man and a footballer.”

In addition, AC Milan play-maker Andrea Pirlo and Juventus defender Paolo Cannavaro have both supported Er Pupone’s proposed comeback.

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