ROME - For a player who has singularly come to represent Serie A giants Roma for nearly a quarter century, Francesco Totti deserved to feel heartbroken on Wednesday upon hearing his playing career would soon be over.
"It's the day that he hoped would never arrive," a friend of 40-year-old Totti was quoted as saying by Gazzetta dello Sport on Thursday.
Yet, for the 'Re di Roma' (King of Rome) -- who led the Giallorossi to the 2001 'scudetto' and eight runner-up places -- the end of a storied career that has wowed fans, peers and rivals the world over for the best part of 25 years has been fast approaching.
Reduced to sporadic substitute appearances in these last two seasons, the announcement by Roma's new sporting director Monchi on Wednesday that Totti will finally hang up his boots on May 28, when Roma host Genoa at the Stadio Olimpico, caused ripples.
Especially as Totti, after playing a largely forgettable final 19 minutes in a 3-1 derby defeat to Lazio last weekend, appeared to remain defiant.
Totti reacted like he was pushing painful thoughts of his fateful day to the back of his mind when he was asked if he had just played his final derby: "That's what everyone else says. I'm saying nothing."
With 15, largely cameo appearances so far this campaign, the ageing club icon had lost all hope of prolonging his career and trying to overtake Silvio Piola's all-time record of 274 Serie A goals.
Ahead of Roma's final four games of the season, Totti has scored 250 in 616 Serie A appearances.
According to Gazzetta, Totti has already signed a six-year deal that will "guarantee him a salary" although doubts remain over his potential future role. Monchi, though, indicated he expects Roma's favourite son to play a key role.
"On Totti, I can say that I arrived one week ago and there was already an existing agreement between him and the club that it would be his final season as a player, because for next season he already has a management contract," said Monchi.
"Now, we'll look to the future and I hope Francesco will be as close to me as possible so he can teach me everything I need to know about Roma. Because he is Roma.
"If I can learn just one percent of what Totti knows, then I will be a very lucky person."
Former Sevilla goalkeeper Monchi, whose full name is Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo, won nine major honours during an unprecedented spell of success with the Spanish club from 1990 to 1999.
After retiring as a player, he worked behind the scenes helping the Andalusians win the Europa League a record five times, the Copa del Rey twice and both the Spanish Supercopa and European Super Cup once.
As player, Totti's trophy cabinet is comparatively bare: as well as the 2001 Serie A title, he helped Roma win the Italian Cup in 2007 and 2009 and two Italian Super Cups (2001, 2007).
As part of Marcello Lippi's Italy squad at the 2006 World Cup, Totti, with an Italian tricolour flag draped over his head, got to hold the World Cup trophy aloft after playing 61 minutes of a controversial final win over France.
Famously, he turned down the chance to move to Real Madrid in 2004, saying: "If I'd gone to Real Madrid I could have won Champions League titles and many other accolades.
"But I prefer what I'm doing now."