Retirement-bound Francesco Totti said he remains focused on helping Roma secure a top-two finish despite the prospect of watching from the bench when they bid to stop Juventus securing the Serie A title on Sunday.
The 40-year-old Totti ended months of speculation over his future by confirming this week he is ready to work alongside sporting director Monchi when he hangs up his boots at the end of the month.
Known as ‘Il Re di Roma’ (King of Rome) for the best part of a career spent entirely with Roma, Totti will be given a farewell worth of royalty when they host Genoa on his swansong on May 28.
Despite a decidedly underwhelming end to a storied career that has been overshadowed by sporadic, cameo appearance from the bench and disagreements with club officials, Totti says he remains committed to the cause.
“We have Juventus against Roma on Sunday, that’s all I’m thinking about because we want to fight all the way to the end in this championship, and Roma comes first,” said Totti.
“There will be plenty of time to talk (about me) afterwards.”
With a seven-point lead on Luciano Spalletti’s hosts and three games remaining, Juventus need just a point at the Stadio Olimpico to secure a record sixth consecutive ‘scudetto’, and the first trophy of a targeted treble.
Massimiliano Allegri’s men face face Lazio in the Italian Cup final on May 17 before focusing on Real Madrid in the Champions League final on June 3.
But Allegri is keen to make sure Juve get the job finished quickly.
“We’ll go into the final looking to win, but in the meantime we can’t forget we need a point against Roma. Otherwise, it will come down to our (next) game against Crotone,” he said.
Roma are without striker Edin Dzeko, who leads Serie A on 27 goals, as he recovers from a calf strain and are still sweating on midfielder Radja Nainggolan.
The thought of Totti retiring, meanwhile, is difficult to swallow for Roma captain Daniele De Rossi.
“What he’s going through right is painful for me because I know it will soon be over for him,” said De Rossi, who has played alongside Totti for nearly 17 seasons.
“It’s an historic moment for Roma.”
Roma would do well to take at least a point from Sunday’s clash if they are to keep Napoli at bay in their dogged pursuit of the league’s second automatic Champions League qualifying spot.
Napoli are just one point further adrift in third before a trip to Torino where a draw would secure at least a third-place finish. Lazio, away to Fiorentina, are seven points behind them in fourth.
As Juve, Roma and Napoli look ahead to Europe’s premier club competition, northern rivals AC Milan and Inter Milan — both now Chinese-owned — face another underwhelming end to the season.
But the pressure is firmly on Inter, who sacked coach Stefano Pioli in midweek amid a seven-game winless run including five defeats and claims by pundits that Inter’s mercurial players are the problem.
Pioli took over from Dutchman Frank De Boer two months into the campaign but the club, after initially targeting a Champions League spot, risk falling short of even qualifying for the Europa League.
AC Milan, in sixth and still on course for a Europa League spot, are away to high-flying Atalanta, who are fifth with a six-point advantage on the Rossoneri.
Inter, three points adrift of their city rivals, host Sassuolo on Sunday when youth team coach Stefano Vecchi will take over until the club find a replacement for Pioli.
With Palermo and Pescara already relegated to Serie B, Crotone host Udinese looking for the win that would boost their top flight survival hopes.
The Calabrians sit third-from-bottom with a four-point deficit to Empoli, who are away to Cagliari.
Fixtures (times GMT):
Fiorentina v Lazio (1600), Atalanta v AC Milan (1845)
Inter Milan v Sassuolo (1030), Bologna v Pescara, Cagliari v Empoli, Crotone v Udinese, Palermo v Genoa, Sampdoria v Chievo, Torino v Napoli (all 1300), Roma v Juventus (1845)
– Agence France-Presse