x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

In an age where club loyalty is rare Totti acts as a shining light

A Roman born and bred, Franceso Totti is aiming to reap his faith in AS Roma with some silverware.

Footballers who spend their careers at one club are a rare breed. Paolo Maldini wrote himself into AC Milan folklore with 25 years of service while Ryan Giggs is now in his 19th campaign at Manchester United. Francesco Totti has one season less on his record at Roma. His loyalty is admirable, but nevertheless, surprising. Totti, who was born and raised in the city's Porta Metronia neighbourhood, has signed a contract to see out his career with the club until 2014. He will be 36 by then and is determined not to finish without more success. The scudetto is the target and Roma are currently second behind Inter Milan.

The Europa League is another viable option and one they do not want to waste. A 3-2 defeat to Panathinaikos in the first leg of their round of 32 tie disappointed Claudio Ranieri's side, but it was also significant for the fact that Totti was absent with flu. The winner in that game came from Djibril Cisse, a man at the other end of the spectrum in comparison to Totti. Panathinaikos are his fourth club in six years, but the flamboyant Frenchman may have found his own ideal home after 21 goals this season.

"He is a complete player who we must fear," said Ranieri of Cisse before the first leg. Roma must now heed that warning if they are to prevail at the Stadio Olimpico tonight and claim their place in the last 16. akhan@thenational.ae