ROME, March 21 – Francesco Totti scored a brace to earn Roma a 2-2 draw at Fiorentina and in doing so achieved a personal milestone by becoming only the sixth person to reach 200 goals in Serie A.
Totti’s 200th strike came from the penalty spot but he subsequently reached 201 when completing a second successive brace, following his two goals in the victory over bitter city rivals Lazio last weekend.
It was the 37th time in his career, spent exclusively at Roma, that the 34-year-old has banged in a brace.
And yet it was the pair of strikes he managed last week that caused him more joy.
"My best goals were the ones I scored against Lazio," he said in a statement sure to delight Roma’s fans.
"The numbers speak of a great career in which I’ve always wanted to honour the same shirt," he said.
"I’m proud of what I’ve done but I’m not stopping there. I always try to do my best."
It’s been a remarkable recent return to form for Totti since new coach Vincenzo Montella took over from Claudio Ranieri.
Totti spent much of the early part of the season warming the bench as Ranieri often preferred Marco Borriello, the club’s top scorer this season, up front.
But since his former team-mate and strike-partner Montella has taken over, Totti has been restored to the starting line-up.
And although he didn’t openly criticise Ranieri, Totti suggested that his increased first team opportunities had something to do with his improved goalscoring form.
"I didn’t have any problems with Ranieri, we had a great relationship but it’s normal to find something negative when you change a coach," he said.
"We changed and with Vincenzo many things have changed and the results have also come.
"I’m not thinking (about the future), I’m my old self again, I’ve rediscovered consistency."
One thing that certainly has changed is the manner of referring to the boss, with Totti using Montella’s first name.
That won’t have done anything to diminish the rumours that an old-boys club atmosphere prevails in the Roma dressing room, which would account for Borriello sitting on the bench and Totti starting.
But he was also right in stating that results have changed as Roma have not lost in Montella’s five league games in charge, winning three.
However, they did lose 3-0 away to Shakhtar Dontesk in the Champions League, completing a 6-2 aggregate defeat.
For Totti, Montella’s arrival has given him a new lease of life and has allowed him to continue to set personal marks.
He sits sixth on the all-time Serie A top goalscorers list but is only four goals behind fifth placed Roberto Baggio.
Having claimed he will go on with his career, Totti can realistically aim to one day take second place on the list, with Sweden’s former Milan striker Gunnar Nordahl occupying that position on 225 goals.
However, one suspects that the leader Silvio Piola’s 274 goals are beyond even Totti’s grasp.
Piola began his career in 1929 and played for 25 years, gracing Pro Vercelli, Lazio, Torino, Juventus and Novara in Serie A, while also scoring 16 goals for Novara in one season in Serie B.
Incredibly, though, he never won the Serie A title, finishing runners-up three times with Lazio and Juventus (twice).
Totti won the scudetto in 2001 and has finished runner-up six times with Roma.
His best goalscoring season was in 2007 when he notched 26 league goals and also won the European Golden Boot award.