Rome (AFP) – Francesco Totti’s 25th and final season at Roma could finish with a whimper after coach Luciano Spalletti hinted the club “legend” could be benched for the final two games of his storied career.
One-club man Totti, 40, is scheduled to take a management role alongside sporting director Monchi at the Serie A giants when brings his playing career at home to Genoa on May 28.
But with Roma fighting for a top-two finish that would guarantee Champions League football next season, Spalletti said he won’t budge from his policy of using Totti sparingly, or not at all.
“He’s a legend, and he will continue to be a legend. From whichever way you look at Roma, he is the symbol of our club,” Spalletti said Saturday.
“As I’ve always said, I have to treat him as an important player but one who is part of a squad. And to be fair, I sometimes have to make choices that penalise him.”
Roma, who sit second just four points behind leaders Juventus with two games remaining, face Chievo away on Saturday when Spalletti’s men will be looking for a win to keep Napoli at bay.
Napoli sit in third, one point further adrift, before hosting Fiorentina at the San Paolo in Saturday’s late game.
Totti’s final season with the club he helped to the 2001 scudetto, and eight runner-up places since, has been plagued by claims he has not been given enough playing time.
Calls for the ‘Re di Roma’ (King of Rome) to be be included in Roma’s starting line-up in a league game, for the first time since September, will intensify in the days leading up to next week’s finale against Genoa.
Even retired Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero, a friend of Totti’s, has joined in.
Asked if he would give Totti a starting place against Genoa, he told Radio 1: “Of course I would, that’s obvious.”
But Del Piero added: “I’m sorry there’s been a lot of ups and downs in this saga, but that’s the way it is. Totti, Spalletti and the club know the truth and only they have the right answers.”
Spalletti, who is reported to be leaving Roma, indicated he will maintain his policy of keeping Totti on the bench.
“I’m sorry, but against Chievo and Genoa that’s the way it will be,” he added.
“Even though he deserves all his accolades, and everything that comes his way when he retires, my job is to make Roma win. While doing so, I try to take into account how to manage Francesco.”