Florence

Soccer: Prospect of Totti return sets pulses racing

Buffon says Prandelli right to consider evergreen forward

Soccer: Prospect of Totti return sets pulses racing

(By Paul Virgo) Florence, March 19 - Pulses are racing in Italian soccer after Azzurri boss Cesare Prandelli said he may consider recalling AS Roma captain Francesco Totti for next year's World Cup in Brazil. The 36-year-old is in splendid form despite being in the latter stages of his career. He became Serie A's second-highest scorer when he notched his 226th league goal in Roma's 2-0 win over Parma on Sunday, one goal more than Sweden's Gunnar Nordahl, who played for AC Milan and Roma in the 1950s. It was his 11th league goal of the season, although that tally only partially reflects the contribution of a player who is a playmaker as well as a striker. Prandelli said Monday that he will be forced to call up Totti if he keeps playing so well, even though he will be close to 38 by the time of the next World Cup. "If Francesco Totti is still in this form next year and he has the same motivation, we'll be obliged to take him into consideration a month before the start of the World Cup," Prandelli told reporters. "It's difficult to talk about it now. But he seems like a boy. He has strong motivation and incredible qualities". Totti took a break from international football after he helped Italy win the 2006 World Cup. He went on to retire completely from the national team without returning. He said at the time that his body was not up to the demands of regularly playing for both club and country, but he has occasionally hinted he would be willing to come out of retirement for a big tournament. Prandelli's comments prompted sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport to beam World Cup Totti with its front-page headline Tuesday, adding that "a sensation Azzurri return looms". Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon said Tuesday that he was pleased Prandelli is open to the possibility of recalling Totti. "Totti will always be a teammate in the national team for me," Buffon told reporters at the Azzurri's training camp near Florence, ahead of Thursday's friendly against Brazil and next week's World Cup qualifier against Malta. "We have shared the Azzurri adventure since the Under-15s. What Prandelli said is very interesting," added the Juventus goalkeeper. "It's right not to rule out anything with regards to someone who can make the difference, who can make you win. "Francesco is a player who is writing the history of soccer with the present and the near future. It may be right to wait for him". Totti, meanwhile, played down talk of him returning to the Italy squad, without ruling it out. "Prandelli's comments pleased me very much," said the born-and-bred Roma, who has only played senior-level soccer for the club he supported as a child. "I don't know (what I'd do if he called me up now). I'm certainly in good shape at the moment. "But we'll see what happens between now and 2014. It's possible that in a year's time, I'll quit".

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