Friday, 20 July 2007

Totti confirms international retirement

Roma captain Francesco Totti has officially announced his retirement from international football today.

Totti, who made 58 appearances for Italy scoring nine goals, had not played for the national team since they lifted the World Cup in Germany last July after asking to take an extended break. He has now decided to quit the Azzurri completely.

"The word finished is ugly but I have taken this decision to end the chapter with the national team for various physical reasons and not technical," the 30-year-old told a news conference in Rome. "I have weighed up for a year after the World Cup what to do and I have decided to finish with the national team in order not to create problems for the Azzurri staff. I am sorry, but health is the most important thing."

Totti broke his ankle last year and was rushed back for the World Cup finals. He was expected to have to undergo another operation during this close-season to remove a plate put in to help the ankle but doctors said recently it was not needed.

One of the most gifted players in the world, Totti has never fully achieved his potential at international level despite his World Cup winners' medal and a runners-up medal from Euro 2000.

Totti made his debut for the Azzurri in a Euro 2000 qualifier against Switzerland in October 1998. He was famously sent off when the Azzurri were eliminated by co-hosts South Korea in the 2002 World Cup and was banned during Euro 2004 after being caught spitting at Denmark's Christian Poulsen.

The one-club man, idolised by Roma supporters since making his debut aged 16, was arguably in the form of his life last season even with the plate in his ankle. He said his break from the national team was a factor behind his performances.

He was Serie A's top scorer with 26 goals and earned the European Golden Boot as Roma finished second in the league behind champions Internazionale and won the Coppa Italia.

Italy stuttered without him in their first two Euro 2008 qualifiers but results have since picked up and they lie second in Group B with leaders France visiting Milan on September 8.

"Sincere sorrow, but also a great respect for the reasons that are behind his choice," Italian Football Federation (FIGC) President Giancarlo Abete said in a statement. "When a player decides to leave the blue shirt it is never good news."

Italian media had speculated that Totti, devoted to his TV presenter wife and two children, wanted to play for Italy on a part-time basis but that coach Roberto Donadoni and FIGC bosses were against the idea.

Source: C4 Football Italia / La Gazzetta dello Sport / Reuters

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