Francesco Totti was a footballer who made the sport look beautiful.
In his pomp with both Roma and the Italian international team, the silky forward was a force to be reckoned with, a player who could do it all in the final third.
As well as being a world-class goalscorer, Totti was an elite-level playmaker and that’s evident from his incredible stats at club level.
The now 44-year-old played 785 games for Roma throughout his illustrious career and in that time, he netted 307 goals and contributed 185 assists.
Totti really was a special player and the man nicknamed ‘Il Capitano’ always looked as if he was immune to pressure when out on the pitch.
Perhaps the greatest example of the Italian icon’s no-fear approach came during his country’s semi-final versus Holland at Euro 2000.
After normal and extra-time, the match between the European heavyweights was locked at 0-0 and that meant a penalty shootout was required to decide the winner.
It all went swimmingly for Italy at the start. Luigi Di Biagio and Gianluca Pessotto scored the nation’s first two spot kicks, while both Frank de Boer and Jaap Stam missed for Holland.
That meant the Azzurri were in the driving seat and all it required was a calm head to fire in the third penalty and pretty much secure a place in the final.
Step forward, Totti.
The forward accepted the responsibility of the pressure kick and he managed to beat Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.
And the way in which he beat the legendary shot-stopper was simply outrageous.
With the eyes of the world watching, Totti produced the most perfect ‘Panenka’ possible and after watching footage of the moment of magic, it’s hard not to think that it’s the coolest penalty in history.
Take a look for yourself…
Video: Totti’s penalty vs Holland
Genius, pure genius. Andrea Pirlo’s ‘Panenka’ versus Joe Hart at Euro 2012 was good, but Totti’s against Van der Sar was even better.
Totti even provided an iconic quote about his penalty shortly after the nail-biting victory over Holland.
He said: “To take a penalty like that you must be crazy or very good. And I don’t think I’m crazy.”
They don’t make players like Francesco anymore, do they?
“I looked at the bench and I saw startled faces,” Totti wrote about the incident in his autobiography. “[Fillipo] Inzaghi held his hand on his forehead as if to say ‘That’s mad’. I met [Francesco] Toldo who was returning to the goal and I saw him laughing as if he already knew everything, and could not wait to enjoy the the final.”
Paolo Maldini missed Italy’s fourth spot kick, but Toldo managed to save Holland’s third from Paul Bosvelt to secure the Azzuri’s place in the final versus France – where they lost to a David Trezeguet golden goal.