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end of an era

Francesco Totti to retire: Roma playermaker epitomises loyalty after spending entire 25-year career with boyhood club — despite no trophy guarantee

Iconic attacker made debut in 1993 and won league title in 2001 and record five Serie A Italian Player of the Year awards

IT’S the end of an era.

Football’s loyal hero, Francesco Totti, will retire from the sport he has given so much to at the end of the season, it has been revealed.

ROME, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 04: Francesco Totti (l) in action during a match between Roma and Foggia on September 4, 1994 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Allsport/Getty Images)

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A 17-year-old Francesco Totti in action for Roma against Foggia back in 1994

‘Er Bimbo de Oro’ — The Golden Boy — has been with Roma, his boyhood club, throughout his entire career.

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However, at the age of 40, his effectiveness on the team was beginning to wane.

epa05555504 Roma's Francesco Totti celebrates a score during the Serie A soccer match Torino vs Roma at Olimpic Stadium in Turin, Italy, 25 September 2016. EPA/ALESSANDRO DI MARCO

Francesco Totti celebrates 250th Serie A goal during defeat to Torino, 22 years later

FERRARA, ITALY - DECEMBER 20: Team shot Italy (from top left Gianluigi Buffon, Massimo Ambrosini, Francesco Coco, Alessandro Nesta, Jonatan Binotto; from bottom left Fabrizio Cammarata, Francesco Totti, Roberto Baronio, Mirko Sadotti and Syefano Fiore) prior to the Under 21 match played between Italy and Bulgaria at Paolo Mazza stadium on December 20, 1995 in Ferrara, Italy


Francesco Totti was part of Italy’s superstar Under-21 side which won Euros in 1996Totti made his first-team debut against Brescia over 24  years ago as a 16-year-old on March 28, 1993.

After establishing himself as an integral member of the team, he became the youngest club captain in Serie A history when he inherited the armband from Aldair at the age of 22 in 1998 — a year before he won win his sole Young Footballer of the Year award.

He travelled with Italy to Euro 2000 for his first major tournament and famously chipped Edwin van der Sar from the penalty spot during a semi-final shoot-out en route to Golden Goal heartbreak in the final, against France — where he was named man-of-the-match.

Alongside the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Alessandro Nesta and Christian Vieri, Totti helped the Under-21s win the European Championships in 1996, with victory in the final over Raul’s Spain.

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - JUNE 29: EM EURO 2000, Halbfinale, Amsterdam; ITALIEN - NIEDERLANDE (ITA - HOL) 3:1 n.E.; Francesco TOTTI/ITA verwandelt Elfmeter (Photo by Henri Szwarc/Bongarts/Getty Images)

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Edwin van der Sar dives to the right as Francesco Totti chips penalty into corner

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BRUESSEL, BELGIUM - JUNE 14: EM EURO 2000 BRUESSEL; ITALIEN - BELGIEN (ITA - BEL) 2:0; Francesco TOTTI/ITA (Photo by Henri Szwarc/Bongarts/Getty Images)

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Francesco Totti in action for Italy during Euro 2000, his first major tournament

07 Aug 2001: Gabriel Batistuta, coach Fabio Capello, president Franco Sensi and captain Francesco Totti of Roma celebrate their league title at the pre-season friendly between AS Roma and Boca Juniors. AS Roma won the match 3-1. DIGITAL IMAGE Mandatory Credit: Grazia Neri/ALLSPORT

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Francesco Totti with Fabio Capello and Gabriel Batistuta back in 2001

The Giallorossi icon scored the winner over Scotland in the semi-finals.

When Fabio Capello was hired as manager in 1999, Roma were slowly building a team capable of competing for a first Scudetto since 1983 — and Totti was the centrepiece, as well as the icon.

Vincenzo Montella and Gabriel Batistuta completed a star-studded attack line.

In 2000-01, Roma were crowned champions with all three netting in a 3-1 victory against Parma as the Giallorossi clinched the title on the final day of the season.

The image of Totti passionately celebrating after netting the clinching second will etched on the minds of all Roma fans for eternity.

It was made even sweeter by the fact they took the title from great-rivals, Lazio, who had won Serie A the previous year.

18 Mar 1996: Francesco Totti of Roma in action during the UEFA Cup game against Sparta Prague

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A 19-year-old Francesco Totti during a Uefa Cup game with Sparta Prague in 1996

Totti scored and provided an assist as his side beat Fiorentina 3-0 in the Italian Super Cup to hand the Italian ace what seemed like the first of a flurry of trophies.

However, only a final day collapse by Inter Milan allowed Roma to sneak into second-place behind Juventus.

Totti played his part in one of the club’s finest-ever performances — scoring the fifth as they tore neighbours Lazio apart, winning 5-1 ‘away’.

Roma's Captain Francesco Totti (R) is tackled by Silkeborg's Michael Hansen (G) during a first round second legs of UEFA Champion's Cup between A.S. Roma and Silkeborg of Denmark at Olympic Stadium in Rome, 29 September. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) (Photo credit should read GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images)

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Francesco Totti became youngest captain in Serie A history at age of 22

The playmaker arrived at the World Cup in Japan-South Korea as one of the stars, but it ended in failure.

Totti was sent off as Italy were controversially eliminated by hosts, South Korea, on the Golden Goal rule.

He recovered to make history with the only goal as Roma beat Real Madrid 1-0 at the Bernabeu. It was the first time in 35 years that an Italian side had won in the Spanish capital.

22 Dec 2000: Francesco Totti of Roma tries a shot on goal during the Serie A 12th Round League match between Roma and Juventus played at the Olympic Stadium in Rome. Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK/ALLSPORT

Francesco Totti became famous his favourite type of goal where he chips goalkeeper

The Giallorossi struggled in 2002-03, finishing in ninth-place and losing in the Coppa Italia final — despite Totti three free-kicks over both legs.

But he still won his second Serie A Footballer of the Year award.

In 2003-04, he enjoyed arguably his most productive season.

17 Jun 2001: Francesco Totti of Roma celebrates after scoring a goal during the Serie A 34th Round League match played between Roma and Parma, played at the Olympic Stadium, Rome Italy. + DIGITAL CAMERA + Mandatory Credit: Grazia Neri/ALLSPORT

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Francesco Totti’s striker against Parma all but seals Serie A title for Roma in 2001

I09 - 20010617 - ROME, ITALY : AS Roma captain Francesco Totti jubilates after scoring during the Serie A soccer match against AC Parma, on the last matchday of the Italian soccer championship, Sunday 17 June 2001. At the end of the first half AS Roma is leading the match 2-0 with two goals scored by Totti and Vincenzo Montella. EPA PHOTO ANSA/ALESSANDRO BIANCHI

The image of Francesco Totti celebrating, etched in memories of all Roma fans

Roma missed out on the title to AC Milan but Totti netted 20 goals for the first time.

He appeared set to win his first Ballon d’Or until an ugly incident involving Denmark’s Simon Poulsen at Euro 2004 cost him his chance.

Totti developed a trade mark cucchiaio goal — which is where he lobs the goalkeeper.

Capello left for Juventus in 2004 and Roma’s form dipped.

Francesco Totti celebrates winning Scudetto with boyhood club, Roma, in 2001

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Francesco Totti celebrates winning Scudetto with boyhood club, Roma, in 2001

But Totti still made history as he became the club’s all-time leading goal scorer in Serie A with his 107th strike.

He scored arguably his most famous goal of all-time when he dribbled past Inter defender, Marco Materazzi, before lobbing Julio Cesar.

He broke his leg in a match against Empoli in early 2006 which looked set to rule him out of that summer’s World Cup.

Although, he returned in time and played a key role — netting an injury-time penalty against Australia in the last-16 — as Italy were crowned champions.

DAEJEON, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 18: WM 2002 in JAPAN und KOREA, Daejeon; Match 56/ACHTELFINALE/KOREA - ITALIEN (KOR - ITA) 2:1 n.V.; Schiedsrichter Byron MORENO zeigt Francesco TOTTI (10)/ITA die ROTE KARTE (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Bongarts/Getty Images)

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Francesco Totti’s 2002 World Cup ended in disgrace as he was sent off

Juventus were relegated that summer, while Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina all had points deducted following a match-fixing scandal.

However, Inter were just too strong — finishing 22 points clear of Roma.

The Nerazurri had bought several of Juve’s top players, something the Giallorossi could not allow due to a long-held rivalry with the Turin giants.

Italian midfielder Francesco Totti celebrates with the trophy after the World Cup 2006 final football game Italy vs.France, 09 July 2006 at Berlin stadium. Italy won the 2006 football World Cup by defeating France on penalties. AFP PHOTO ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

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Four years later, and Francesco Totti and Italy were champions of the world

ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 19: Francesco Totti of Roma and Richard Vanigli of Empoli clash during the Serie A match between AS Roma and Empoli at the Stadio Olimpico on February 19, 2005 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by New Press/Getty Images)

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A leg break against Empoli had looked set to rule Francesco Totti out of World Cup

It was still a stellar season for Totti as his 26 goals were enough to see him crowned top goal scorer and win the European Golden Shoe.

He even scored in the Coppa Italia final as victory over Inter yielded a third trophy — a won a penalty which was converted by Daniele De Rossi to claim the Italian Super Cup.

In 2007-08, he broke Roma’s Serie A appearance record in his 387th game, against Inter, before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament shortly after reaching 500.

ROME, ITALY: AS Roma's midfielder Francesco Totti (C) kicks the ball despite Lazio Rome's midfielders Dejan Stankovic (L) and Stefano Fiore (R) during their Italian first league derby, at Rome's Olympic Stadium, 10 March 2002. AFP PHOTO GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

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Francesco Totti in action during one of many Lazio-Roma derbies of his career


Francesco Totti sends a message his wife after scoring a goal for Roma

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Francesco Totti sends a message his wife after scoring a goal for Roma

Francesco Totti has made 605 Serie A appearances in 24 years with Roman club

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Francesco Totti has made 605 Serie A appearances in 25 years with Roman club

He would go on to miss the final as they retained the Coppa Italia. Totti still lifted the trophy, however.

Roma finished second to Inter in 2007-08 and repeated the trick a year later.

In all, Totti has finished as a Serie A runner-up on a mammoth EIGHT occasions.

No can ever take away that one title he won back in 2001.

At his peak, he could have played for any top team in Europe, but CHOSE to stay loyal to his boyhood club despite the fear his trophy cabinet would not be as full as it should.

Rome, ITALY: The referee Paparesta (R) gives the yellow card to Lazio's Paolo Di Canio, flanked by AS Roma's Francesco Totti during an Italian Serie A match AS Roma-Lazio in Rome 23 October 2005. The match ended drawn 1-1. (Photo credit should read CARLO BARONCINI/AFP/Getty Images)

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Francesco Totti and Paolo Di Canio became iconic rivals during short time in Rome

Rome, ITALY: AS Roma captain, forward Francesco Totti sits on the bench during AS Roma vs Inter Milan's, a first leg final of Coppa Italia football match, at Olympic stadium in Rome 03 May 2006. AFP PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

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Francesco Totti chose to stay loyal despite numerous offers from top clubs

Francesco Totti achievements

Serie A title — 2000-01
Coppa Italia (2) — 2006-07, 2007-08
Italian Super Cup (2) — 2001, 2007
Under-21 European Championship — 1996
World Cup — 2006
European Golden Shoe — 2007
Serie A Young Footballer of the Year — 1999
Serie A Footballer of the Year (2) — 2000, 2003
Serie A Italian Footballer of the Year (5) — 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007
Serie A Goal of the Year (2) — 2005, 2006

His balance, passing range and accurate shooting made him one of the best of his era — a pioneer of the ‘false-9’ role.

In his autobiography, it was claimed he could do unlimited kick-ups with a football at the age of five.

But extreme talent is only a small part of Totti’s genius.

He epitomises all that is good about football. He is worshipped by the Roma fans and it is unlikely we will ever see his like again.

His Serie A’s second all-time goal scorer and third all-time appearance maker.

A true football legend.