For one half of the city of the Rome, the Best is not in doubt. It has been that way for the lion’s share of 25 years. Arguably one of the last of a dying breed – a genuinely world class one-club man – Francesco Totti learned a hell of a lot about life at the top of the game ahead of hanging up his boots in May.
In the process of winning a historic Scudetto in the red of Roma and Italy their fourth FIFA World Cup™while decked in Azzurri blue, Totti had the pleasure of locking horns with all three of the finalists for The Best FIFA Men’s Player: Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar.
One thing the man known as L’Ottavo Re di Roma (the Eighth King of Rome) was quick to acknowledge, when running the rule across these three sensational talents, was their out-of-this-world ability. “First of all, we are talking about three footballing aliens,” he explained to FIFA.com.
“I must say that we always respected each other on and off the field. But I think that, in the end, Ronaldo is ahead of the others. He had an amazing season and also accomplished all of his goals with the most prestigious of teams.”
Having shown some interest in coaching since hanging up his boots – though his directorship at Roma has taken precedent – Totti can look on with some Italian pride at two of the nominees for The Best FIFA Men’s Coach, with Massimiliano Allegri and Antonio Conte in the running.
He sees that fact as a ringing endorsement for the country’s Scuola Allenatori, whose alumni also include last year’s winner, Claudio Ranieri. “It’s fair to say that our coaching school is still top quality.”
However, having faced all three while they sat in the dugout, Totti cannot be accused of having his Italian heritage sway his judgement. “Despite the extraordinary job of Conte and Allegri,” he continued, “I think Zidane is the favourite for the same reasons as Cristiano Ronaldo: he won everything the last season.”
As the scourge of many a goalkeeper throughout his quarter century at football’s highest level – standing as the top scorer in Serie A for over 60 years with 250 goals – he is maybe not a natural ally to his gloved brethren. However, he is happy to see them getting recognition with the new The Best FIFA Goalkeeper Award.
“Goalkeepers have a huge impact on the game, although they aren’t recognised as they should be. Their impact in the final result for the team is always decisive,” he explained.
In this category he is tipping a countryman he is tipping for the top honours. “I think Gianluigi Buffon has a very good chance of winning it,” he said of the man he has faced four times from penalty spot and only beaten twice – despite having an 83 per cent success rate from 12 yards.
“He’s been the best individually, but also his team reached the Champions League Final – same as Keylor Navas. In the end, I think the 2 of them will be competing for it.”
We will find out if the Golden Boy’s hunches are right on 23 October, when The Best FIFA Football Awards™ will be handed out at the London Palladium.
— Francesco Totti (@Totti) August 24, 2017