Francesco Totti scored twice against Lecce this Sunday, bringing the total quota of his goals in Serie A to 175. A measure of what this means: until this weekend, only ten men in the entire history of the league had scored as much or more. Of these, seven played more than thirty years ago and none had spent the majority of their careers in the role of trequartista (offensive midfielder). None of them is still active, meaning that there is no player on the pitches right now who has scored as many goals in Serie A as Totti. In the list of the all-time greatest Serie A poachers, only eight players make it into the first fifty who are still active. Totti is not only the first among these, he is also the youngest. If there was any need for numerical evidence that Totti is the greatest talent produced in Italy since Roberto Baggio, then his entry into the top ten of all-time goal-scores should provide just that. Grazie Capitano, and here’s to reaching 200 before the next World Cup.
Totti’s goals gave Roma three much-needed points and a corresponding dose of oxygen given that Genoa and Fiorentina – the direct competitors for fourth place – both lost their own ties. Whether this will be enough to do anything more than hope is yet to be seen. The team certainly does not give much room for optimism. Once again they managed to gain and then squander a well-deserved lead. How a team of Roma’s calibre can go from 2-0 to 2-2 against Lecce is a profound mystery, one which is not at all dispelled by the dreadful state of the defence from the capital. The question is deeper. Lecce forward Axel Conan may have put in a performance worthy of his barbaric surname, but why was the ball getting to him in the first place? No, the real crux of the matter is mentality and tactics, and Roma will have to fix (or simply reset) both before the next season kicks off. Roma did not defeat Lecce because they were the better team – they defeated them by the grace of San Francesco, and one can not rely on divine intervention all the time (incidentally, ‘divine’ really is the right word for it – Totti freckled the game with openings and passes worthy of an Ode by Keats. It reminds one of just how much Calcio loses when he is not on the pitch and it should feel good to everyone that the man is back).
One trait by which this season will be remembered is the sense of finality that has permeated and still permeates all of the games in it’s latter weeks. Inter-Juventus was a final. Sampdoria-Genoa will be a final without doubt, and chances are that Milan-Roma will be one as well. The last Roman derby and the match of the Giallorossi against Genoa were also games to end all games. So it seems superfluous to add that next weekend’s Fiorentina-Roma will be a final, with the fate of both teams hanging from its uncertain result. Fiorentina will walk into the game as favourites, although some of their frailties may come back to hurt them (mainly the inconsistency of some key players, especially in the midfield). This could especially be the case if San Francesco descends in his golden chariot again, as he did in the first match this season (1-0, goal by Totti). Some would argue that Roma will have an important advantage in the absence of Adrian Mutu, who represents Fiorentina’s more modest response to the Holy Roman Ambassador, but this is nonsense. La Viola has more than enough firepower in their offence and midfield to burn a hole through that store-house of mattresses that is Roma’s defence at present, with or without Mutu. What really will cut the difference will be the fighting spirit of the Giallorossi and whether their midfield will be able to operate organically with the other departments. If it can, and Roma manages to snatch a lead, then the wolves could well walk away with some prey in their jaws. Divine intervention is a more realistic thing to hope for though.
These are weeks of tension for and around Luciano Spalletti. The management has reportedly declared that if the fourth place is not attained, the Tuscan Coach will be replaced next year. Predictably, a number of great teams have swooped down to place their bid on the man, among these Milan and Juventus. It is foreseeable that Spalletti would do well at either of these two teams. Whether he would also do well by staying at Roma is much harder to assess and a rather risky gamble. Ideally, Roma should let him go to the party that makes the highest bid and replace him, but not as a swap deal. The idea of seeing Carlo Ancelotti as the Coach of the Roman team makes one think of candidating a cow for the place of Vice-President of the United States of America. Carletto has no tactical vision at all and is not the man for the job. As for Claudio Ranieri, the man has nothing to offer that has not been seen in the league since the 1980s except for a tendency to bench youngsters, which happens to be exactly the opposite of what Roma needs.
The match against Fiorentina, then, will also be a final for Spalletti. Another one. Sometimes what is striking in all these situations is how little the will of the individual in question is taken into account. Does Spalletti want to stay in Rome? He may well not, and there are a hundred good reasons for him to leave for greener pastures. It is surprising how little attention the question is receiving by the public, for it is a crucial one. Yes, in theory Roma can oblige Spalletti to respect his contract and stay, but if the man does not want to, then there is no point in keeping him – he simply would not do a good job. So whether Spalletti stays or goes will depend on his will as much as on that of Rosella Sensi. Of course, Spalletti has made no official statements to the press on the subject for the simple reason that the man is not an idiot and if he really does wish to hang himself he will probably just use a rope. That may be the explanation as to why the press (and consequently the public) are not discussing the issue – they simply lack the raw material. And such are, after all, the limits of the trade of journalism. Since prolonging the discussion beyond these limits would be unprofessional, we shall let our own meditation fold up here.