Francesco Totti suggested he could postpone his retirement and carry on playing after hinting at "a new adventure" during an emotional farewell following his final Roma appearance.
The club icon came off the bench to help Roma record a dramatic 3-2 home win against Genoa in the last game of the Serie A season, securing second spot and automatic Champions League qualification at Napoli's expense.
Totti was expected to take up a non-playing role at Roma after it was confirmed he would not sign a new deal, but in an poignant speech at Stadio Olimpico he implied he might have changed his mind.
"I like to think of my career as a fairytale to tell - and this is the worst part," Totti said. "Now it really is over.
"I take off my shirt for the last time. I will fold it nicely, even if I have to admit I'm not ready to say it's over and maybe I never will be.
"Sorry if during this period I didn't give interviews or clarified my thoughts, but it's not easy to switch that light off. Now I am afraid. It's not the same fear you have in front of the goal when you need to score a penalty. This time I cannot see through the holes in the net what lies beyond.
"So allow me to be a little afraid. This time I am the one who needs you and your warmth. What you've always shown me. With your affection, I will certainly be able to turn the page and throw myself into a new adventure."
forever.May 28, 2017
Totti ends his Roma career having played 47,098 minutes in Serie A, the equivalent of 32 days and 17 hours, and he reminisced about his sole Serie A title in 2001.
"It is impossible to sum up 28 years in a few sentences," Totti said. "I'd like to do so with a song or poem, but I can't write any.
"Over the years, I've tried to express myself through my feet, which have made everything simpler for me ever since I was a child. Speaking of childhood, can you guess what my favourite toy was? A football, of course! And it still is today.
"At some point in life, you grow up – that's what I've been told and that's what time has decided. Damned time.
For the 786th and final time...It has been a privilege to witness.May 28, 2017
"Back on June 17 2001, we all wanted time to pass a little more quickly. We couldn't wait to hear the referee blow the final whistle. I still get goose bumps now when I think back to it.
"Today, time has come to tap me on the shoulder and say: 'We have to grow up. As of tomorrow, you'll be an adult. Take off those shorts and boots because starting today, you are a man. You can no longer enjoy the smell of the grass, the sun on your face as you bear down on the opposition’s goal, the adrenaline consuming you, the joy of celebrating.'
"Over the past few months, I've asked myself why I'm being awoken from this dream. Imagine you're a child having a good dream… and your mother wakes you up to go to school. You want to keep dreaming… you try to slip back into the dream but you never can.
"This time, it's not a dream, but reality. And I can no longer slip back in."
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