Roma director sees Totti in ‘ambassador’ role once retired

ROME (AP) In his 24th season with his hometown club, Francesco Totti is more than merely the captain of Roma.

He is a symbol of the team.

That’s why Roma has announced that once the 39-year-old Totti retires, he will have a lifetime role of his own choosing within the club.

”We want to see where he’s most comfortable. Whatever position he wants, whether in the technical staff or (management), it will be a benefit for us and he will continue to represent the club in Italy and abroad,” Roma general director Mauro Baldissoni told a select group of foreign reporters Friday.

”I see him more in a representative position – perhaps as a club ambassador representing the club also commercially,” Baldissoni added.

With 244 Serie A goals, Totti is second on the all-time list, 30 behind record-holder Silvio Piola – who starred in the 1930s and 40s.

Despite increasing speculation over his future and diminishing minutes on the pitch, Totti has not announced when he plans to retire.

Roma’s president James Pallotta has talked several times about a future role for Totti, although the American has also said that he would like Totti to play in a new stadium that the club hopes to begin construction on next year.

”This is all premature for now,” Baldissoni said. ”We’ve always said it will be a natural choice when he retires and feels like he doesn’t want to play competitively anymore. At that point we’ll sit down and find a solution. It won’t be a problem. It will be an opportunity.”

Roma is hoping to break ground next year on the stadium, which will require up to two years for construction.

”So (opening in) 2018-19 could be a possibility if everything goes according to plan,” Baldissoni said.

Baldissoni also discussed an investigation by prosecutors in Milan into alleged collusion over Serie A’s TV rights.

Serie A rights adviser Infront has acknowledged that its Italian division president Marco Bogarelli and two associates are under investigation for ”alleged manipulation” over the sale of the 2015-18 domestic rights.

Last week, several clubs had documents confiscated by financial police investigating alleged kickbacks to teams from Infront.

Since Roma was taken over by a group of American investors four years ago, it and Juventus have been in a minority of clubs voicing opposition to the way Serie A sells and distributes its rights.

”If there are investigations that will bring about transparency and maybe a correction of illicit behavior, we’ll be more than happy,” Baldissoni said.

The 2015-18 live rights were sold to Rupert Murdoch-controlled Sky and Silvio Berlusconi-controlled Mediaset for 943 million euros (slightly more than $1 billion) per season, 114 million euros ($130 million) more than the previous deal.

Infront says the company itself is not part of the prosecutors’ probe.

”Roma had a contract with Infront for its archival commercial rights,” Baldissoni said. ”But it expired and we didn’t renew it. We took different decisions.”

MP & Silva distributes Serie A’s international rights for an average of 185 million euros (slightly more than $200 million) per season, a small fraction of what the English Premier League makes.

In the United States, beIN Sports channel holds the live rights to Serie A. Roma has a separate deal with NBC to repackage its own games for later viewing.

”Our position is well known, with some doubts about certain circumstances,” Baldissoni added. ”The advisor is (just) the advisor. It’s the league that makes the decisions and we’re going to try and make the league do it more efficiently for our common interest.”

Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf