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Soccer: Totti keeps Italy door open on 20th anniversary

Former Italy forward thanks well-wishers via ANSA

Soccer: Totti keeps Italy door open on 20th anniversary

(By Paul Virgo) Rome, March 28 - AS Roma captain Francesco Totti said he felt like a 20-year-old on Thursday, the 20th anniversary of his Serie A debut, and kept the door open to a return to the Italian national team for next year's World Cup in Brazil. "I thank everyone, friends and non-friends," the former Italy forward said in a video message to his many well-wishers released via ANSA's website (www.ansa.it). "Today I really feel like a 20-year-old. I have 20 years behind me and I've got another 20 ahead of me," quipped the 2006 World Cup-winner. "It's a wonderful day. I'll carry it with me for a long time. I feel 20, still young. I'm grateful to everyone. It's always nice to hear certain comments. "I don't know what I have ahead of me. I hope it's a rosy future". The one-club man said that it could be "taken for granted" that his future would be with Roma. 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 this month, 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. The only person ahead of him now is Silvio Piola, who scored 274 goals for Pro Vercelli, Lazio, Juventus and Novara between 1929 and 1954. Totti celebrated the anniversary at Roma's training complex, where his teammates cheered as they tossed him up in the air and a huge banner was unfurled telling him 'the best is yet to come'. He said he will talk to Italy boss Cesare Prandelli about playing at the 2014 World Cup if he is still in excellent form next year. "I'm going through an excellent spell, and if I'm still in good shape up until the World Cup, I'll talk to Prandelli and we'll take a decision together," he told Sky television. Prandelli said last week 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. The Roma captain 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. In an interview published in Thursday's La Gazzetta dello Sport, Totti said he did have some reservations about being part of Italy's World Cup squad if the Azzurri qualify. "I know that the World Cup is the utmost (in soccer), especially in Brazil, where soccer is everything," he said. "But if things were to go badly, I know who they'd take it out on. They'd say: they've taken an old man who ruined the squad". In the Gazzetta interview, Totti made some interesting reflections on his career. He said the only player that has done things on the field that he does not think he himself is capable of is Barcelona's Lionel Messi. He said the best opponent he has ever faced is Ronaldo and that the finest teammate he has ever played alongside is Argentine Gabriel Batistuta, with whom he won the 2001 Serie A title. But he added that the player with whom he had the best understanding on the field was Antonio Cassano. The coach he most respects is Italy's 2006 World Cup-winning boss Marcello Lippi. He talked about gays in soccer too, saying he had never met any homosexual players and that he did not think the game in Italy or anywhere else was ready for them to come out. "It's extremely sad, but that's how it is," he said. He added that he lost his virginity at 12 and that he hopes his seven-year-old son Cristian does not follow him into football. "If he's good, I'll be happy, but I hope not," he said. "Having the Totti surname will be an obsession. I hope he becomes a tennis player, I'll be his manager".

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