Roma great Totti eyes lasting memory in likely last derby vs. Lazio
MILAN (AP) – Roma great Francesco Totti is out to ''destroy'' Lazio in what could be his last derby.
Totti's contract runs out at the end of the season and the 40-year-old forward is likely to retire and move upstairs into a director's role at the club where he has spent his entire career.
''It's a different match to all the others,'' Totti said. ''It's a team you always try to destroy on the field but with the maximum respect.
''For the city, for the curva, for the fans, you always try to give 101%. It's a match you always want to win.''
Roma won the last derby 3-2 last month but still lost to Lazio in the two-legged Italian Cup semifinals. Totti played less than 10 minutes in each match.
That semifinal defeat still hurts Roma and its fans, which are likely to fill the Stadio Olimpico again after ending a 14-month protest following the removal of deeply unpopular security barriers.
''It will be like all the other derbies, a must-win match,'' Totti said. ''It's important because we all remember how the last one finished. We have to get our revenge.''
Sunday's match is also crucial for the battle for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the group stage of the Champions League.
Roma is currently second, four points ahead of Napoli, which visits Inter Milan on Sunday. The team which finishes third has to go into a playoff for Europe's premier club competition.
Roma has a more difficult run-in than Napoli. After the derby, it next faces AC Milan and Juventus before ending its season against Chievo Verona and Genoa. Napoli plays Cagliari, Torino, Fiorentina and Sampdoria.
''It will be a very important derby for the standings and we will try everything to have a great game to bring home the three points,'' Totti said. ''We are going through this battle for second serenely and calmly, also because now we have a four-point advantage on them.
''There are only a few matches left until the end of the season, even if three out of five are very difficult on paper. We will try everything to finish second.''
Lazio is fourth, seven points behind Napoli.
Totti has been playing for Roma for 25 years–remarkably more than 28% of the club's existence–since making his debut in the final stages of a 2-0 win at Brescia on March 28, 1993.
Totti, who also won the World Cup with Italy in 2006, could have won more than the solitary Serie A title, two Italian Cups and two national Super Cups he claimed with Roma, but he rejected offers of more money and glory to remain with his childhood club.
His face adorns murals and posters across Italy's capital, where he is loved by Roma fans and respected by supporters of Lazio, despite his antics against them.
Totti has scored 11 times against Lazio and often celebrates these extra-special goals with T-shirts made for the occasion. One famously said, ''I have purged you again,'' while he revealed another reading simply ''Game Over'' after a victory in May 2015.
He hit the headlines in January of that year when he scored the second of two goals against Lazio and, in a pre-planned celebration for becoming the all-time leading scorer in the derby, grabbed his phone off Roma's goalkeeping coach and took a selfie under the Curva Sud with thousands of adoring fans in the background.
In the Eternal City, Totti is Roma's eternal leader–first made captain in 1998 when he was only 22.
Nike alluded to his ''King of Rome'' nickname at a promotional event on Wednesday to unveil new gold-colored boots to mark the Roma captain's 25 years at the club.
Totti, who was greeted by about 200 chanting fans, was instructed to sit on a throne with the steps leading up to it bearing the names of the seven kings of ancient Rome, with his name placed on the final step.
''I have nothing to do with these kings,'' Totti said. ''I prefer to be judged than to judge.''