Modern Roman culture is a potent cocktail of the contemporary and the ancient. Arguably, it is at its most complete when the two combine, encapsulated by the city’s designer shops that are built in the shadow of its grand classical structures. From the Baths of Caracalla, to the imposing Forums and the sharp glass fronted restaurants; the city bathes in her true glory.
Nobody embodies this more than AS Roma’s Captain, Francesco Totti. The Giallorossi’s current head-coach, Luciano Spalletti, once famously remarked that it would be ‘easier to move the Colosseum out of Rome’, rather than attempt to move Totti out of Roma.
Indeed, the old traditions and the new are still battling for the hearts and minds of the populace. Few have managed to achieve the transition, but Francesco is an exception, at least for the Yellow and Red half of the city. For those of a Sky Blue persuasion, he has been a purge; both demonic and hated, but no less renowned. The Giallorossi’s ‘Capitano’ has spit fire onto Lazio for over three decades, and the stories from these games will forever live in the city’s collective memory. He has achieved this whilst evolving from modern to the ancient.
In honour of Totti’s achievements, and in light of the fact that this may well be his last Derby della Capitale, we decided to trace his evolution through the goals he scored in this most symbolic of fixtures – all 11 of them.
1. Lazio 3-3 Roma, 1998/99
It’s a cold November on 1998 and Zdeněk Zeman, the Bohemian tactician, has been called upon by the Giallorossi, despite coaching their city-rivals only a year before. This was an inexplicable act and it fuelled the fire of one of the world’s most fiercely contested derbies.
With only 20 minutes to play, Roma were 3-2 down. Roberto Mancini had scored a brace for Lazio, who had their prey in sight. It was then, with 9 minutes remaining, that a symbol of the Eternal City was born. With an assist already to his name, Totti was dragging his team forward. Suddenly, Marco Delvecchio intercepted a ball destined for Lazio keeper Luca Marchegiani and the ball fell to Roma’s soon-to-be golden boy. Lazio defenders scrambled in desperation, but Totti hit the ball into the ground and looped it over the desperate goalkeeper.
Before it hit the net, the new ‘Prince of Rome’ was rushing over the advertising boards, shirt in hand, running towards the Curva Sud, running towards his people.
2. Roma 3-1 Lazio, 1998/99
Marco Delvecchio looked like he had grabbed the headlines after his brace sent the Giallorossi into a 2-0 lead. The earlier 3-3 draw had ended in spectacular style, and Roma seemed to ride this momentum throughout the return clash. The Stadio Olimpico roared the home team on, although they were made to sweat when Christian Vieri’s strike for Lazio threatened to script their arch rivals a comeback story of their own.
Totti, however, seemed to have the bug for the Derby della Capitale and he was on a one-man mission to decimate his foe. Some poor defending, a kind bounce and the striker’s instinct allowed him to pounce in the final minutes making the game 3-1 and taking it beyond Lazio.
As the thunderous roar of the crowd bellowed the name of their new hero, he removed his shirt to reveal a message to Lazio and their supporters: ‘Vi ho purgato ancora’ (I have purged you again).
It appeared Roma’s new prince was also a prophet. More importantly, the points Totti and company had denied their sworn enemy cost them dearly, as Lazio missed out on the Serie A title by one point behind AC Milan.
3. Roma 2-0 Lazio, 2001/02
The tension is hard to bear in the Stadio Olimpico. Roma are a goal to the good and two minutes into injury time. How much is there? Enough for Lazio to come back?
The Giallorossi have the ball on the right and the thud of the ball hitting the Aquile full back is met with a gut-wrenching groan. That sound does not a get chance to hit its lowest note as the ricochet falls to the galloping Brazilian, Franciso Lima. The noise lifts. Lazio’s defenders are static. The ball is floated into the box and nobody seems to move, apart from Totti, whose downwards header ripples the back of the net, unleashing a tidal wave of emotion that threatened to engulf Rome itself.
As the commentator began his ‘Gol, Gol, Gol, Gol Goooool,’ marathon, Totti headed straight to the Curva Sud. He was the Captain now, he was the master on and off the pitch, and as he moved towards the stands where he stood as a boy, his emotion got the better of him. He kicked the Perspex that separated them, almost as if he no longer knew which side he belonged: player or tifoso?
In the glow of the flares – and as the ball boys and players embraced him – Totti turned away, kissed the badge and returned to lure of the pitch.
4. Lazio 1-5 Roma, 2001/02
Ask any Roma fan about the 5-1 demolition of Lazio – which came the season they had wrestled the Scudetto from their city rivals – and they will look at you with love in their eyes and inevitably start to talk about Francesco Totti.
This is somewhat incredible. How can ‘Il Capitano’ still take centre-stage after that match, especially considering Vincenzo Montella had scored four times against their old enemy. That’s right, the ‘Little Aeroplane’ had strafed Lazio and torn them to pieces. Yet at 4-1, and with less than 20 minutes remaining, Totti painted a picture that is to this day etched in the memory.
Montella was the first person in history to score four in the Derby and on 72 minutes, he gave the ball to Francesco some 30 yards out, not knowing that this simple pass would count as an assist. The number 10 adjusted his feet, took the ball forward and looked up. Montella had made a run through the middle, which Lazio keeper, Angelo Peruzzi, had anticipated and come rushing towards the penalty spot to intercept.
The instant the Biancocelesti’s stopper set off, Totti struck. It was not with venom, but with beauty and finesse, so delicate that it was as if he shattered their glass hearts with a kiss. The chip was perfect and as the ball rolled down the net, it even had the manners not to bounce.
This was Totti as his best. This wasn’t football anymore, it was art.
5. Lazio 1-1, 2003/04
Not every goal in every Derby can be drenched in meaning and shape the course of a season or the player. Yet Totti seems capable of rising to the occasion in most scenarios. The goal itself was a penalty, struck so hard that it threatened to break the Lazio net. Roma’s captain had stolen the headlines once again, as did his wild celebrations with the camera.
It was the confidence displayed by Totti that commanded total faith among his followers and teammates. Roma would finish second that season, 11 points behind Milan. But Totti cemented cement his role as the Giallorossi’s protagonist, finishing as the club’s top scorer, netting 20 in all competitions.
6. Roma 1-1 Lazio, 2005/06
Roma had not started the 2005/06 campaign well. In their first eight games, they had lost to Udinese, Siena and Empoli, and drawn with Livorno and Cagliari. Only wins over Parma and Reggina saved their blushes. Knocked by their poor start, and despite possessing the likes of Vincenzo Montella, Mancini and Antonio Cassano, they again turned to their Captain and inspiration.
Totti would net 15 goals during the 2005/06 season, but his goals in the Derby always meant the most. After a piece of delectable control, Roma’s number 10 played a one-two with Montella, which sent him through on goal, one-on-one with Marco Ballotta. The keeper got a touch on his opponent’s strike, but the power took it into the roof of the net. The celebrations – always new and imaginative – paid homage to the birth of his new child, much to the satisfaction of his wife Ilary.
7. Roma 2-0 Lazio, 2010/11 (Part I)
‘The Free-kick Master’
At 36 years of age, many thought that Totti’s time was up. He had not scored in the Derby della Capitale for some time, five years to be precise, and some argued his powers were waning. This display, however, would leave Rome open mouthed as he once again put on a masterclass, bagging a brace.
His first goal was almost straight out of the Totti handbook. A freekick from all of 30-yards saw the veteran take a long run-up and, as the ball was passed to him, he rocketed a low strike through the wall and through Lazio keeper, Fernando Muslera. Phillipe Mexes could take credit for creating the gap, but the old maestro set the Derby on fire once again.
8. Roma 2-0 Lazio, 2010/11 (Part II)
‘The King of Rome’
In the same game (which was unsurprisingly turning ill-tempered) Totti struck again. This time from the penalty spot, after Stefano Radu (as well as Cristian Ledesma for protesting) was sent off. Once again, the penalty was dispatched with considerable interest and, after a short pause, Totti characteristically disappeared under the Curva Sud with his shirt off, perhaps realising he had more time on the clock and perhaps more Derbies to win.
A week after this performance, T-Shirts appeaared on the streets of the Eternal City claiming, quite rightly, that ‘The King of Rome was not dead’.
9. Roma 1-1 Lazio, 2012/13
‘Consistent with Age’
The passion that surrounds the Derby della Capitale engulf the city. This game in April was no different, and tensions were especially fraught, perhaps born out of frustration on the part of the Giallorossi. A 2-0 defeat to Palermo the previous game had knocked Aurelio Andreazzoli’s men, who, since Zdeněk Zeman’s departure in February, had produced some good results.
The Derby would spill over after Hernanes gave Lazio an early lead, but when Roma where awarded a penalty in the 56th minute, there was only one man for the job. Totti stepped up and instead of smashing the ball high into the top corner, he aimed low and despatched comfortably beyond Frederico Marchetti.
10. Roma 2-2 Lazio, 2014/15 (Part I)
Theoretically, this was a season when the Derby could have been one of Totti’s last. Nobody knew if he would continue to perform under the Curva Sud, or instead call time and walk off into the sunset. Whilst this feeling may have been making many in Red and Yellow nostalgic, this speculation was only serving to motivate their Captain.
But this motivation had clearly not extended to Totti’s teammates, who found themselves 2-0 down at half-time. In the second-half, one man took it upon himself to haul his team back in the game, and this was the oldest man on the pitch. Totti’s first goal saw him flirt with the offside line, before he broke off to the back post and slotted low into the opposite corner. The come-back was on.
11 .Roma 2-2 Lazio, 2014/15 (Part II)
When people remember Totti and his contributions in the Derby della Capitale, this moment will, as they say, live in infamy. The aeging superstar, who had received his critics throughout the build-up to this game, suddenly looked like the youngest footballer on the planet. And with Roma trailing, he produced a fairy-tale moment.
When the ball was whizzed in from the left-hand side, it looked too far ahead of Totti. He simply had no right to reach it. Yet, despite his years, he stretched forward and connected with the cross beautifully, guiding his volley back across the face of Frederico Marchetti and into the net. The Curva Sud was sent into ecstasy. ‘Il Capitano’ ran to goalkeeping coach Guido Nann, who handed him his mobile phone and the rest is history.
The man thought too old to continue performing at the highest level acted like a 17-year old, as he preserved the memory by taking a ‘selfie’ with his people, his Curva. That image sent social media into meltdown. There, captured in a photograph, was a glimpse of what it felt like to be Francesco Totti in the Derby, even if for only a second.
More importantly, these two goals took him beyond ex-Roma players, Dino da Costa and Marco Delvecchio, in the all-time Derby della Capitale scoring charts. It is an honour Francesco Totti considers his greatest. One that made him the undisputed ‘King of Rome’.
Words by Richard Hall: @RichHall80
Richard is the founder of The Gentleman Ultra and an Italian Football Writer contributing to @Guardian_sport, @FootballItalia, @CmdotCom and @SiriusXMFC