Manager Luciano Spalletti was not going to admit as much and did not bow to sentiment by selecting the man, hailed as the ‘core of the city’ by one Roman daily, to start his farewell match.
Totti did enter the game for the final time as a Roma player in 10 minutes into the second half with the score at 1-1. Spalletti giving his No 10 40 minutes to win the game.
There was drama but Totti was not the protagonist. In a game where Pietro Pellegri, a 16-year-old not even born when Totti made his debut, opened the scoring Edin Dzeko equalised before half-time. Daniele De Rossi thought he’d got the winner in the 74th minute but Darko Lazovic levelled for Genoa soon after.
The Olimpico erupted when Diego Perotti ensured the Roma fans could say farewell to their icon with a Champions League group stage place secure, finishing Dzeko’s deft lay-off with a firm finish in the game’s final minute.
After the final whistle there were tears from the 40-year-old as he waved goodbye to his adoring fans. He was presented with a framed shirt whilst those in the stands held up cards bearing Totti’s name and famous number.
He then took the microphone to say what proved an emotional farewell to the club’s supporters, during which he shared his early memories, his immense pride and thoughts on the future.
He said: ‘Over the past few months, I’ve asked myself why I’m being awoken from this dream.
‘Imagine you’re a child having a good dream… and your mother wakes you up to go to school. You want to keep dreaming… you try to slip back into the dream but you never can. This time, it’s not a dream, but reality and I can no longer slip back in.
‘I want to dedicate this letter to all of you – to all the children that have supported me. To the children of yesterday, who have grown up and become parents and to the children of today, who perhaps shout ‘Tottigol’. I’d like to think that for you, my career has become a fairytale for you to pass on.
‘It’s really over now. I’m taking off that jersey for the final time.’
Despite Totti’s absence from the starting XI, the club were not going to stand on ceremony however. To commemorate ‘the King of Rome’, I Giallorossi wore special shirts to mark the occasion. A ‘Totti 10’ logo was emblazoned on the sleeves, accompanied by a special message containing the quote:
‘Una squadra per la vita’, which translates as, ‘one team for a lifetime’.
Statues were erected outside the Stadio Olimpico with fans taking pictures of Totti in a number of famous poses. A small plane flew over the Olimpico with a banner reading ‘Thank you captain’.
Roman daily Il Tempo (The Time) even changed their masthead on the front page to mark the occasion, adopting the moniker ‘Totti’s Time’.