MILAN, May 25 (Reuters) - AS Roma’s home game with lowly Genoa on Sunday is expected to bring the curtain down on Francesco Totti’s 25 years at the club though the player himself has not said he intends to retire.
Second-placed Roma have made it clear they will not offer the 40-year-old playmaker another contract but Totti’s refusal to play ball has left an air of mystery over the match.
The club have been criticised for their handling of what has become an uncomfortable situation for them with coach Luciano Spalletti making little use of Totti this season.
With Napoli, who are third, just a point behind in the standings, there will be no time for sentiment, either, as Roma need to win to make sure of finishing runners-up to Juventus and qualifying for the Champions League group stage next season.
Third place would mean going into the final playoff round where Italian teams have been eliminated in six of the last eight seasons - with Roma themselves among the victims last August. Napoli visit mid-table Sampdoria on Sunday.
Spalletti’ frustration showed when he was asked why he had not brought on Totti in the 4-1 win at AC Milan for what would have been his last appearance at San Siro earlier this month.
The shaven-headed coach said he would not have become Roma coach if he knew it was going to be such a complicated issue and said his job was to manage Totti as a player, not his legacy.
Roma’s sporting director Ramon Rodriguez ‘Monchi’ reiterated recently that Totti had agreed that this season would be his last, while chief executive Umberto Gandini said the player’s contribution would “continue in another way” next term.
Throughout this whole episode, Totti has refused to say whether he actually wants to call it a day, saying only that “there will be time to talk about it.”
Supporters of Roma’s arch-rivals Lazio, who share the Olympic Stadium, could not resist a dig at their neighbours.
“You have not received respect from either your fans or your club we tell you sincerely that we are sorry,” Lazio’s hard-core fans said in a statement addressed to Totti on Monday.
“We are sorry, we would never have allowed a player like you to be treated like this. We would never have silently observed what they are doing to you.”
Sampdoria forward Fabio Quagliarella said Totti “doesn’t deserve to be treated like this” while former Juventus forward Alessandro Del Piero was saddened.
“I’m sorry that this story has had some sad moments,” he said. “The truth is known to Totti, Spalletti and the club, and only they can answer certain questions.”
Zdenek Zeman, one of 16 coaches Totti has played under at the club, added: “I haven’t heard that he wants to leave... Do I think he’ll leave? No, I hope to see him on the pitch again.” (Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris)