Roma's Francesco Totti is the latest veteran footballer looking to achieve a career milestone before he calls it quits, writes Ian Hawkey.
Serie A: Roma's Francesco Totti out to topple Silvio Piola's record
This is a good spring for the evergreen footballer.
Ryan Giggs made his 1,000th professional appearance, David Beckham prepares for another night in the Uefa Champions League, 18 years after his debut in European club competition. This is also the era of insatiable accumulators of goals: witness Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
So when Roma's Francesco Totti smiled at the weekend on being asked about the next record he might target in his career as a goalscorer, it was worth pausing before declaring it impossible or implausible.
Totti had just hit his 225th goal in Serie A, a penalty, to set the momentum going for Roma's 3-1 win against Genoa. In doing so he equalled Gunnar Nordahl's landmark figure for AC Milan and Roma, set in the 1940s and 50s.
Only one man has scored more times in Italy's top-flight than Nordahl or Totti. He is Silvio Piola, who retired in 1954, with 274 goals to his name in the colours of Lazio, Torino, Juventus and Novara.
Now, if Totti were to score as easily as Ronaldo or Messi are doing in the Spanish league, he could aim to eclipse that in barely 18 months.
But part of what is admirable about Totti's milestone is that it has been achieved across a period when Italian football was rightly acknowledged to contain the sport's highest standards of defensive rigour.
Moreover, for most of the period between his first Roma goal, way back in September 1994, and now, Totti has played in a position behind the spearhead of the attack.
He was, as ever, contributing assists again against Genoa, including the set-up for Alessio Romagnoli's debut strike in Serie A.
Romagnoli, who has just turned 18, was not born when Totti scored his first goal for Roma.
"I'll retire if I get past Piola's record," said Totti when the distant, long-shot next target was put to him. Should his knees hold up enough that he shows the endurance of a Giggs, then perhaps the unlikely idea of 275 goals might gradually turn into a realisable target.
Totti will turn 37 in September; Giggs has just signed a new Manchester United contract taking him beyond his 40th birthday this November. Totti averages over 15 goals per league season over the last 10 campaigns.
Maintain that record, and he would be clambering close to the top of Tower Piola as his 40th birthday approached.
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