Rome

Soccer: Totti reaches Nordahl mark, only Piola left

Roma captain cements status with 225th Serie A goal

Soccer: Totti reaches Nordahl mark, only Piola left

Rome, March 4 - AS Roma captain Francesco Totti has cemented his status as one of the greatest players ever to grace the Italian top flight, by becoming Serie A second-top scorer of all time. The former Italy forward converted a penalty in Sunday's 3-1 win over Genoa to take his league tally up to 225, equalling the number notched by Swedish great Gunnar Nordahl for AC Milan and Roma in the 1940s and 50s. The only person ahead of the 36-year-old now is Silvio Piola, who scored 274 goals for Pro Vercelli, Lazio, Juventus and Novara between 1929 and 1954. "Francesco Totti is a world class player and like all world class players, he has unimaginable resources," said Russia coach Fabio Capello, who was in charge of Roma and Totti when the club won their third Italian title in the 2000-01 season. "As his age increases, so does his guile and intelligence which, along with his enormous technical skills, has taken him to the levels he is playing at". Capello added that his thinks Totti, who has scored 10 Serie A goals this season, can keep performing at this high level for at least two more years. Unlike Piola and many of the big names he has surpassed in the scorers' ranking, such as Giuseppe Meazza, Jose' Altafini (both 216) and Roberto Baggio (205), Totti has netted all of his for one club. The born-and-bred Roman made his top-flight debut for the team he supported as a boy aged 16 in a 2-0 win at Brescia in 1993 and scored his first league goal the year after in a 1-1 draw against Foggia. For one of Italian football's finest talents of recent times, he has relatively few big club titles to his name, the 2001 scudetto and the 2007 and 2008 Italian Cup. He has accepted that as the price of his loyalty to Roma, after refusing to succumb to the lure of bigger clubs. He also sacrificed his Azzurri career for Roma, retiring from international football after being part of the 2006 World Cup-winning campaign, saying his body was no longer up to playing for both club and country. He has scored 98 of the goals in open play with his sweet right foot, 35 with his left, 19 from free-kicks, 61 from the penalty spot and 12 with his head. But Totti is much more than a goal machine. He is also a playmaker who sets up chances for his teammates, as shown by the assists he laid on for the 18-year-old debutant Alessio Romagnoli and veteran midfielder Simone Perrotta in the win over Genoa. "When I reach Piola I'll quit," said Totti, who has said he wants to keep playing until he is 40. As well as being a fine footballer, Totti is also one of the country's best-loved personalities. He is Italy's nearest equivalent to a David Beckham-style star, with his blue-eyed good looks and beautiful TV presenter wife, Ilary Blasi. He has a dry, typically Roman wit in radio interviews and has shown skills as a comic actor in TV commercials with Blasi for Vodafone. He is a committed family man too. His distinctive thumb-sucking goal celebration comes from when Blasi gave birth to the couple's first child. And the most touching moment of him reaching Nordahl's milestone was when his children, a boy and a girl, ran on the pitch at the end of the match to celebrate, bringing their dad to tears. "It was unexpected," said Totti. "I didn't think they were coming because they had been ill all week. "It was the most wonderful surprise. "Now I'm heading towards Piola. I know it will be very hard (to catch him) and that, if I were to stop next year, it would be impossible. But we'll see at the end".

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