Roma coach Luciano Spalletti has upped the stakes in a recent spat with Francesco Totti by sending the club icon home hours before he was due to start against Palermo.
Spalletti said Friday he could start Totti, who has recently returned to the fray after a lengthy injury lay-off, alongside striker Edin Dzeko for the Serie A league fixture at the Stadio Olimpico.
But Spalletti has performed a dramatic about turn, omitting Totti from his squad a day after the 39-year-old player hit out at the coach in an interview with RAI television.
According to widespread reports in the Italian sports press, Totti was called in by Spalletti after a team breakfast and told he had been omitted from the matchday squad.
An interview with RAI in which Totti appeared to describe strained relations with Spalletti was aired on Saturday.
“I’m still a footballer and I want to play. My injury is over, I’m doing fine and if I’m not playing it’s the coach’s decision,” Totti said.
“I’m not here to demand to play, I’ve never done that and I’m not going to start now…. my contract ends in June and then I’ll take stock of the situation, because I can’t stay like this.”
Totti, who is in his 23rd season with the club, said the only conversation he had with Spalletti was saying “hello and goodbye” and hit out at the coach for talking about him to the media.
“I respect him as a person and as a coach, but I would have preferred he told me to my face the things that I’ve read in the newspapers,” he added.
“After everything I’ve given to the club all these years I would hoped to be treated with more respect.”
Spalletti is in his second spell at Roma following the sacking last month of French coach Rudi Garcia, who led Roma to two consecutive runner-up places behind Juventus — last year and 2014.
Totti’s wife Ilaria Blasi, meanwhile, recently hinted it could be Totti’s final season with the club he helped steer to the league title in 2001.
“Retirement? We’re there,” Blasi said in an interview with Oggi magazine when asked when Totti would finally hang up his boots.
“Next year he will be 40 years old. Francesco has had a great career, to the extent that now he’s thinking what else he wants to do. But he will stay within the sport.”
Totti scored his 300th goal for Roma in a 2-2 draw with Sassuolo in late September to take his Serie A goals tally to 244, 30 short of Silvio Piola’s all-time record of 274.