MILAN — The question on just about everyone’s mind in Italy at the moment is: Will Francesco Totti retire at the end of the season?
Totti, who turns 41 in September, is widely expected to call it quits at the end of the season and move into a director’s role at Roma, where he has spent his entire career.
However, when he was asked if the Genoa match on May 28 would be his last, Totti replied: "I don’t know."
That prompted a flurry of speculation, forcing the Roma captain to release a statement on his social media channels.
"Today I responded to the umpteenth question about my future with a joke," Totti said. "All I know is that Juve comes to Rome on Sunday and I’m thinking only of that because we’re fighting right to end of the championship and Roma comes before everything else.
"The rest can follow afterward and there’ll be time to talk about it."
Roma still has faint hopes of winning the title — a fitting, albeit unlikely, end to Totti’s career.
Totti, who also won the World Cup with Italy in 2006, could have won more than the solitary Serie A title, two Italian Cups and two national Super Cups he claimed with Roma. But he rejected offers of more money and glory to remain with his childhood club.
A draw at the capital side would be enough to hand Juventus an unprecedented sixth straight Serie A title with two matches to spare.
Defeat would leave it four points ahead of second-place Roma.
Roma then visits Chievo Verona before its final match of the season, at home against Genoa.
Tickets for that match were released on Thursday, two weeks early, and fans were lining up outside one of the main ticket points three hours before it opened in order not to miss the chance to say goodbye to their idol.
More than 37,000 tickets were sold in nine hours.
New sports director Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo, known as Monchi, is certain Totti will move into the non-playing role that was agreed to when the forward signed up for one final season on the field.
In the Eternal City, Totti is Roma’s eternal leader — first made captain in 1998 when he was only 22.
"In terms of Totti, I already knew that there was an agreement with the club that this would be his final year as a player, then he would start as a director," Monchi said. "Francesco is Roma. I want to be as close to him as possible. I’d love to learn even 1 per cent of the huge amount that he knows."
Fans of other clubs also appear to be certain this is Totti’s last season as a player, with AC Milan supporters taking the unusual step of giving the former Italy international a standing ovation when his name was read out before last weekend’s 4-1 loss to Roma and unfurling a banner reading: "The (Curva) Sud pays tribute to rival Francesco Totti."
If Totti decides not to retire, he could even choose to continue his playing career away from Roma. Pescara-based politician Antonio Razzi has urged him to join the city’s club, which will play in Serie B next season under Zdenek Zeman — the former Roma coach who made Totti captain nearly two decades ago.
"Totti should never retire. I am a Juventus fan, but Totti is Totti, he is the symbol of Roma, he is known throughout the world," Razzi said. "It would be nice for him to continue playing at Pescara, with Zeman on the bench. He could very well be a coach on the field, Totti on the pitch, Zeman on the bench. Abruzzo would become the talk of Italian soccer."