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Francesco Totti on bench for final Roma match

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Sunday marks Francesco Totti’s final match with Roma after a stellar 24-year career, but the striker won’t be starting at the Stadio Olimpico.

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The 40-year-old was named to the bench for his club’s 2016/17 Serie A finale against Cagliari, with Roma needing a victory to capture second position in Italy’s top flight.

Napoli currently sits just one point behind the Giallorossi and hold a slight two-goal edge in goal differential, which could be a decisive factor in which side finishes second.

It would be quite odd for Roma to not give Totti playing time in his final outing, after a career that featured over 300 goals across all competitions for his hometown club.

Totti leaves future uncertain before final match with Roma

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ROME (AP) Francesco Totti has finally announced that Sunday’s match against Genoa will be his last with Roma after an incredible 25-season career with his hometown club.

Whether the 40-year-old Totti will continue playing with another squad remains anyone’s guess.

The 2006 World Cup winner opened his future to questions by releasing a carefully worded statement on Thursday.

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“Roma-Genoa, Sunday 28th May 2017. The last time I can wear Roma’s jersey,” Totti said. “I can’t tell you in a few words how much these colors meant, mean and will always mean to me.

“I just feel that my love for football never fades; it’s a passion, my passion. It’s so deep I can’t imagine not fueling it any longer. Ever. From Monday I’m ready to go again. I’m ready for a new challenge,” Totti added.

The first part of Totti’s statement inferred that it wasn’t his decision to end his Roma career but that of the club, by not offering him a contract for next season.

Totti has not hidden his difficult relationship with Roma coach Luciano Spalletti, who has used Totti mainly as a last-option substitute.

However, Spalletti is widely expected to follow former Roma sporting director Walter Sabatini to Inter Milan; while Sassuolo coach Eusebio Di Francesco, a former teammate of Totti’s, could move to Roma.

The second part of Totti’s statement, when he mentioned a “new challenge,” inferred that Totti is considering ending his career with another club.

Miami FC, which plays in the second-tier NASL and is managed by Totti’s former teammate with the national team, Alessandro Nesta, and co-owned by Paolo Maldini – another former Italy teammate – appears to be the most attractive option.

James Pallotta, Roma’s American owner, has offered Totti an unspecified management position.

As for Sunday, Totti is not expected to start.

While the match at the Stadio Olimpico was sold out for Totti’s goodbye, Roma enters the final match of the season still looking to seal second place in Serie A and a direct berth into the Champions League.

Roma is one point ahead of third-place Napoli, which will play at Sampdoria.

Totti has appeared in 785 matches in all competitions with Roma, third all-time in Italy for most games with a single club behind only Maldini (902 with AC Milan) and Javier Zanetti (858 with Inter Milan).

Totti is also second all-time in goals scored in Serie A with 250, 24 short of the record that Silvio Piola established from 1929-54. No other active player has more than 200.

But statistics don’t tell the entire story for Totti, a cultural icon perhaps more linked with his club and city than any other player in Italian history.

Born in the working-class San Giovanni section of Rome, Totti made his debut for Roma at the age of 16 way back in 1993.

In 1998 at the age of 22, Totti became the youngest ever Serie A captain.

At the 2000 European Championship, Totti’s chipped “Panenka” penalty against the Netherlands highlighted his talent and audacity.

A year later, Totti led Roma to its third Serie A title and was the centerpiece of a celebration inside the Circus Maximus attended by a crowd estimated at 1 million.

After a spitting incident with Denmark’s Christian Poulsen at Euro 2004 slightly tarnished his image, Totti regained respect within the national team by returning from a broken leg to help Italy win the 2006 World Cup – playing with a metal rod and about 10 support screws inside his left ankle.

In 2007, Totti led Serie A with a personal-high 26 goals and earned the Golden Shoe award as the top scorer in Europe.

In 2015, Totti scored twice as Roma came back from two goals down to earn a draw with Lazio in the city derby, then took a selfie with Roma’s fans in the background.

A final highlight came in February, when Totti scored in added time to give Roma a 2-1 win over Cesena and a spot in the Italian Cup semifinals.

On Sunday, Totti’s career will be honored with an extensive post-match celebration at the Olimpico.

Whether or not there will be more highlights next season – somewhere – remains to be seen.

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La Liga & Serie A: Real locks up 33rd Spanish crown and more

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A roundup of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup | Man United win | Everton, too ]

Malaga 0-2 Real Madrid

Who else but Cristiano Ronaldo would help Real cap off its stellar season in La Liga? The Portuguese attacker netted inside the opening two minutes on Sunday to give Los Blancos the Spanish crown, edging rivals Barcelona by six points in the final table. Karim Benzema added a second for Zinedine Zidane’s side after halftime to ensure the outcome for the visitors.

Real’s next test will take place in Cardiff when the La Liga champions take on Juventus in the UEFA Champions League final.

Barcelona 4-2 Eibar

The Blaugrana needed a win and some help from Malaga to bring home another La Liga trophy, but Real Madrid didn’t comply. Barcelona managed a comeback win over Eibar at the Camp Nou, after falling behind in the opening 10 minutes after a superb volley from Takashi Inui gave the visitors the lead and almost spoiled the day for Luis Enrique in his final match in charge at the Camp Nou. Inui found his second of the day after halftime, before a David Junca Rene own goal gave Barcelona a glimmer of hope.

Luis Suarez leveled the match in the second half, but with Real already up 2-0 at that point, Barca’s chances of winning Spain’s top flight were already dashed. Lionel Messi scored twice late, after having previously missed from the spot earlier in the second half, to give the Blaugrana the lead.

This season marks the first time since 2013/14 that Barcelona hasn’t won a domestic title in Spain (La Liga, Copa del Rey).

Atletico Madrid 3-1 Athletic Bilbao

Fernando Torres scored twice in the opening 11 minutes to give Atletico a commanding lead, and Diego Simeone’s side concluded another La Liga season inside the top three. Inaki Williams pulled one back for Bilbao in the second stanza, however, Angel Correa sealed the match in the 89th minute. The UCL will be in play once again next season for Atleti, despite finishing behind Real and Barcelona.

Elsewhere in La Liga — SATURDAY’S ROUNDUP

Celta Vigo 2-2 Real Sociedad
Valencia 1-3 Villareal


Juventus 3-0 Crotone

Champions once again! Juventus needed to win one of its final two matches, but the Italian giants didn’t waste any time in doing so on Sunday as they captured another Serie A crown. Mario Mandzukic and Paolo Dybala each netted before halftime, while Alex Sandro scored late on to make it 3-0 in favor of the UEFA Champions League finalists.

The Serie A title is Juventus’ 33rd in club history and their sixth straight as the team continues to dominate Italian soccer.

Elsewhere in Serie ASATURDAY’S ROUNDUP

Lazio vs. Inter Milan
AC Milan 3-0 Bologna
Empoli 0-1 Atalanta
Genoa 2-1 Torino
Sassuolo 6-2 Cagliari
Udinese 1-1 Sampdoria

La Liga & Serie A: Roma closes Serie A lead to one point

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ MORE: Bundesliga wrap on final day of season ]

Sevilla 5-0 Osasuna

A trio of first-half finishes put Sevilla out to a comfortable lead, and Osasuna really never stood a chance from there. The bottom side went down after 10 minutes when Vitolo punished the visitors before Franco Vasquez and Stevan Jovetic added two more goals before the halftime break.

That wasn’t the end for the hosts though, as Vasquez and Vitolo each knocked in their second of the afternoon in the second stanza to extend the rout at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium.

Deportivo La Coruna 3-0 Las Palmas

With everything on the line, Deportivo stepped up in a massive way at the Estadio Riazor on Saturday to ensure that the club will play in La Liga again next season. Florin Andone’s first-half brace helped guide the hosts to an early 2-0 lead over Las Palmas, while Carles Gil added a third before halftime to move Deportivo above Sporting Gijon in the Spanish table.

Deportivo sits on 33 points to end the season, finishing two points above Sporting Gijon in 18th place.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Sporting Gijon 2-2 Real Betis
Leganes 1-1 Alaves


Chievo Verona 3-5 Roma

For much of the season, Juventus has appeared to be the runaway favorite to win Serie A, but Roma won’t go down without a fight. The Giallorossi secured an important road win on Saturday to close the gap to one point with one match remaining, but Juve can still win the league on Sunday with a win against Crotone.

Stephan El Shaarawy and Mohamed Salah each recorded braces for Roma while Edin Dzeko added the fifth for the visitors to keep the title race intriguing. Meanwhile, Chievo went in front after 15 minutes through Lucas Castro and Roberto Inglese added two goals of his own for the 14th-place side.

Napoli 4-1 Fiorentina

Kalidou Koulibaly and Lorenzo Insigne fired Napoli out front in the first half, and it was easy sailing from there for the hosts. Meanwhile, Dries Mertens added to his impressive goal total on the season with a brace, while Fiorentina pulled a goal back through Josep Illicic to prevent being shut out.

The win moves Napoli to within a point of second place Roma once more as both clubs vie for a shot at automatic qualification into the UEFA Champions League next season.

Fiorentina continue to sit on the outside looking in for the top six, and with one match remaining the club’s chances at reaching Europe next season have likely slipped away.

Could a shock NASL move be on the horizon for Francesco Totti?

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For the past 25 years, Francesco Totti has built up a resume unmatched in Italian soccer as he helped Roma reach countless high points.

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However, with an end to his Italian career likely in sight at the conclusion of the 2016/17 Serie A season, could Totti pursue a move elsewhere in an attempt to extend his already-impressive body of work?

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, a move to the United States could be in the offing with NASL side Miami FC due to the club’s Italian links.

The Division II side is partially owned by former Italy national team player Paolo Maldini and is managed by Alessandro Nesta, who continued his playing career in the U.S. prior to hanging up his boots.

While there has been nothing to suggest that Totti would even entertain the idea of playing somewhere not named Roma, a potential move to Miami could be enticing for Totti on several fronts.

The Italian links would surely enhance any chance that Miami has of acquiring the Italian legend, who has reached 250 league goals for the Giallorossi during his career. Additionally, given the fact that Totti has never played for another Italian or European side, it would make more sense that the striker continue his career abroad, if he were to do so.