Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed Manchester United tried to persuade Francesco Totti to join the club, but the Roma legend didn’t want to leave the Italian capital.
The club’s all-time record goalscorer and appearance-maker enjoyed 25 illustrious years donning the Giallorossi jersey, winning the 2001 Serie A title in that time, consecutive Coppa Italias between 2007 and 2008, and a host of individual accolades.
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Throughout his career the Italian World Cup winner was linked with big-money moves to some of Europe’s most prestigious clubs, including Man Utd, who even explored the possibility of bringing the Roman hall-of-famer to Old Trafford, according to Ferguson.
The possibility of Totti in his prime flourishing under the esteemed tutelage of Ferguson is the stuff of football fantasy, and one that could have come to fruition were it not for The Golden Boy‘s fervent devotion to the Stadio Olimpico, and the city where he made his name.
“We liked the player and we would have liked to include him in our plans,” Ferguson told Gazzetta dello Sport ahead of Man Utd’s Europa League tie with Roma. “But when we expressed our interest, it immediately became clear that Totti didn’t want to leave Rome.
“He was deeply attached to his city. His CV is clear. Totti has, in his career, only worn the Roma shirt.”
When Totti played at Old Trafford
Although not in Red Devil colours, the Old Trafford terraces were actually blessed to witness the preternatural talents of Totti and his ever-prominent shin pads, in a Champions League quarter-final clash between Man Utd and Roma in the 2006/07 season.
Luciano Spalletti’s side capitalised on their numerical advantage in the first leg after Paul Scholes collected two yellow cards in the opening 45 minutes, securing a 2-1 win in the Eternal City, and teeing up a tantalising return leg in the north-west of England a week later.
However, what unfolded at Old Trafford was utter, one-sided chaos, with Ferguson’s men running riot in a 7-1 win, a result which is now deeply embedded in Champions League folklore, and one that Ferguson still remembers with fond memories.
He said: “Each player played his best music and, together, they composed a wonderful symphony. I immediately had the feeling that I was experiencing one of those nights that rarely happens in the life of a coach.”
The sagacious Scot went on to praise the sportsmanship of the man on the wrong end of that demolition job, Spalletti, who still joined him for a post-match drink despite the capitulation.
He added: “I was pleased that Spalletti accepted the invitation, despite the result and the elimination.
“He came to my office for our drink and the fact that he showed up, keeping his promise, was a demonstration of a strong personality. I can imagine it wasn’t easy for him to toast me, but he didn’t back down, like a true sportsman.”