Shame on You

Totti's contract was agreed upon earlier this summer, all the math was done and both parties were happy. Rosella announced with thinly veiled pride the agreement that would keep Totti in Roma forever. Totti, on his part, was obviously content that everything was in order to tie him to Roma for the next decade. But now, Roma is stalling. Totti is still waiting for the contract to be signed, and while he hasn't confronted the club about it - from what we know, anyway - he has to begin to wonder. Wonder - if not yet, then soon - why a deal agreed two-three months ago and announced then, is still not signed and documented yet.

This week the site RomaNews put up a poll regarding Totti's contract renewal, and whether it was justified to pay out that much money (a 20% decrease from the running contract, but still around 50 million gross over five years) to a player presumably in decline, and soon to be 33. The poll results show that 50% of those responding are unhappy with this new contract.

One would be wise to not attribute the poll with any sort of profound relevance. It is an open poll, and while the number of responses (little more than 5400) is not bad in numerical terms, it's also completely meaningless as we have no idea who responded. These 5400 respondents can not be said to represent the entire community of Roma fans, so the poll is useless for everything but inconsequential fun or time wasting. It obviously says nothing of the real opinions of romanisti as a group.

The problem has been the way the poll has been treated in the media, not that the poll was put up on the site to begin with. Many medias has treated it with an air of importance and matter-of-fact it doesn't merit, and has used the results to create a narrative that will cause friction and attention. Only if we are very trusting and assign a great deal of good faith can we also throw 'to create debate' in the previous sentence as well. The result of this has been a wedge driven in between romanisti, and a divide created.

DDR refused that narrative yesterday, while being interviewed after Italy's game against Bulgaria. He said to the reporter posing the sneaky statement that "it seems" that he had "replaced Totti as the club's bandiera", that any such juxtaposing would be absurd, and reminded the reporter, and everyone who would later hear or read his answer, of what Totti has done for, and means to, Roma. DDR's response and awareness of the intent of the reporter shows both an acute eye for the agenda being promoted, as well as loyalty to his friend and captain, and we should be thankful of it. No matter what we think of the original question of Totti's new contract, the last thing in the world this club needs right now is internal strife and division between Totti and DDR, the undisputed leaders of this group of players.

Rosella's silence in this creates real doubt regarding her, and the club's, innocence in creating and promoting this narrative in the press, and among fans. Even if this isn't her invention, by not coming out and making it clear that she will be glad to honor her agreement with Totti, she gives oxygen to the fire and creates the sense and perception in many that the club is being bled dry. Anything but full fledged, and dedicated support of the man she calls 'a kid brother', is disingenuous and cheap. Beyond insulting to a man who doesn't deserved to be called into question, staying out of the debate would show a ridiculous lack of confidence for a player who is, still, head and shoulders above everyone else in this team on the pitch.

Totti is 33 before the end of this month, and the club has been burned before by giving out long, big contracts to players on the wrong side of 30. Just this summer we were reminded of the folly in giving Montella a contract extension that stretched far beyond the point where he stopped being helpful, or a player of value. But Totti is Totti, and  I can't help but feel he's earned it, even if it is a very real possibility that at the end of that contract, the quality/compensation balance will have swung heavily in favor of Totti's bank account. (The importance Totti has on Roma's ability to make money in turn shouldn't be underestimated, however. We don't have to be experts in the field to understand that all of Roma's sponsorship deals are augmented heavily by Totti's mere presence in the club, and his connection to the shirt).

We have to factor in the desire I think everyone has, that Totti will be allowed to see out his career in peace, and not have the last years tainted by new negotiations which could turn sour. More than one relationship between a club and its bandiera has ended on a bad note due to situations like that, and I believe Totti deserves more than that. While the contract proposed, and already agreed upon, stretches over five years, we can't disregard the possibility of Totti walking away prematurely. He said at the time he let word of the agreement slip, during training camp, that the moment he feels as he's not contributing or holding Roma back, he would let go and leave. I don't think those are empty words, his decision to quit international football three summers ago proves as much.

Totti sacrificed himself so much for Roma, that the club owes him. His wage demands has always been modest compared to what his talent could demand (if not always in relation to the club's wage bill) and he's given up so many golden opportunities to play to win, something he's almost never been in a situation to do in Rome. If it were up to me, Totti would be given a blank check and told to fill in whatever number it would take to ensure his remarkable career end happily.

Rosella has to sign this contract, yesterday. Even if one would disagree that Totti deserves it (laziale!), it's already been agreed upon. Going back on that word would low and not worthy of what fans should rightly expect of Roma's president.