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With Roma’s Francesco Totti retiring, who are the other legendary one-club men?

Martyn Cooke

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AS Roma have confirmed that Francesco Totti is set to retire at the end of the season and bring an end to an illustrious 24 year playing career in the Italian city of Rome.

The 40-year-old is the epitome of a one-club man – a rare example of a dying breed of player who pledges their entire career to a single team.

He is Roma’s all time record appearance holder having represented the Gallorossi over 600 times, scoring in excess of 250 goals, and has captained the side for more than a decade, securing two Serie A titles and two Copa Italia’s.

He is a truly talismanic figure and a genuine modern day legend, it is little wonder that the club’s supporters regard him as Roma’s greatest ever player and have handed him the title of ‘King of Rome’.

It is becoming increasingly rare to find players that choose to remain at one club for the entirety of their career and loyalty is a sparse commodity in the modern game.

However, Totti is not the only legendary one-club man to have graced the football stadiums of Europe over the last decade.

Here are The Boot Room’s five greatest one-club men.

Paolo Maldini

Possibly the most iconic defender of his generation, Paolo Maldini cemented his place as a true legend of the modern game after an illustrious career with AC Milan.

The Italian made his debut in 1995 as a 16-year-old and continued playing for the Rossonero for a quarter of a century before he retired at the age of 41 in 2009.

In total he made over 1,000 appearances in professional football for Milan and the Italian national team, an astonishing achievement, and it is little wonder that the number 3 shirt was withdrawn by the club in his honour.

Maldini succeeded Franco Baresi, who was also an talismanic one-club man, as the captain of AC Milan and he was referred to as Il Capitano (‘The Captain’) by his team mates in recognition of his leadership qualities.

He won seven Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia and the Champions League on five occasions, making him one of the most decorated players in history.

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 Ryan Giggs

The Welsh wizard burst onto the scene at Manchester United as one of the club’s famous “Class of 92” golden generation of young players along with Gary Neville and Paul Scholes (who also spent the entirety of their playing careers at Old Trafford) plus Nicky Butt and Phil Neville.

Together they formed the foundation on which Sir Alex Ferguson built almost two decades of continuous success both on the domestic front and in European competitions.

Ryan Giggs was initially renowned for his pace, trickery and creativity in wide areas before slowly transitioning into a central midfielder with astonishing vision and an impressive range of passing when he entered the autumn of his career.

He made 963 appearances and scored 168 goals for United in a career that spanned 23 years, winning 13 Premier League titles, four FA Cups and the Champions League on two occasions – making him the most decorated player in Premier League history.

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Carles Puyol

Barcelona have undoubtedly been the most successful club team in European football over the last decade and their success was characterised by their talismanic captain Carles Puyol.

The defender, who started his career as a full back before converting into a centre half, made his debut in 1999 and went on to lead the club through the most successful period in their history.

He made 663 appearances during 15 illustrious years and won 21 major titles, including six league titles, two Spanish Cups and lifting the Champions League three times.

Puyol was also renowned for his sportsmanship and the respect that he demonstrated towards team mates and opposition alike.

In 2011 he allowed Eric Abidal to lift the Champions League trophy at Wembley after the Frenchman had successfully overcome liver disease to continue his playing career – a touching moment where the captain sacrificed the spotlight for a fellow player.

An extraordinary player and a true legend of the game.

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Matthew Le Tissier

The enduring perception of Matthew Le Tissier is one of magic, spectacle, charisma and an unrelenting loyalty to Southampton.

The creative attacker was an enigma that drifted casually between appearing to be a lazy, uninterested player one moment to producing something spectacular the next.

Between making his debut in 1985 and announcing his retirement in 2002 he made 540 appearances for The Saints and scored 209 goals, firmly positioning him as a genuine club legend.

Possibly the most surprising aspect of Le Tissier’s career is that he never showed an interest in leaving the south coast despite attracting the interest of some of the largest clubs in the country.

Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea were keen to secure the services of the charismatic attacker at different stages during his career but both were ultimately rejected.

However, Le Tissier never lifted any major club honours with Southampton and the common view is that he could have had much greater success at a bigger club – instead he maintained his loyalty and is rightly adored by the club’s supporters.

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Jamie Carragher

There is a common perception that Jamie Carragher was not the most technically gifted or proficient player to pull on a Liverpool jersey, yet what he lacked in ability he more than made up for with commitment, determination and application.

The central defender made his debut in 1997 and made 737 appearances in a career that lasted for sixteen years before he announced his retirement in 2013 – only Ian Callaghan has represented The Reds on more occasions.

Whilst he may never have had the opportunity to lift the Premier League title, Carragher was still part of the Liverpool team(s) that won two FA Cups and three League Cups whilst also securing the UEFA Cup in 2001.

However, his crowning achievement was the heroic defensive performance that he produced in the Champions League final in 2005 where Liverpool recovered from three goals down to secure the club’s fifth European title.

Featured Image: All Rights Reserved Don Carbone (Don Carbone)

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

AC Milan

Patience required at AC Milan after a slow start to the season

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AC Milan’s new board will have to exercise some patience early in their reign. The Italian outfit have four wins and four losses so far in the Serie A, leaving them in tenth position with minus one goal differential. It is certainly not the start that was hoped for but it was not out of the realm of possibility.

The transfer activity during the summer, sparked by a change in ownership, led to plenty of excitement and intrigue around the Rossoneri. AC brought in 10 new first-team players during the summer and a majority of those regularly start.

The lack of cohesion has been clear in the biggest games of the season so far, all of which have been losses. Sampdoria, Lazio, Roma and Inter have beaten Milan. The one positive from that is that only one of those games, against Roma, was at home.

We mentioned during the summer that Vincenzo Montella would be the most under-pressure manager in Europe. The pressure on the hot seat has definitely been turned up to 100 after the late defeat in the Milan Derby.

Montella’s side came from behind twice to equalise, yet another mistake cost them what would have been a well-earned point. Part of the problem is that the Italian head coach is yet to settle on his best team and formation.

Injuries and lack of form have played a part in that but the manager has not helped his players. The key player, where form and leadership is concerned, is Leonardo Bonucci. It was considered a huge coup for Milan when they stole arguably the best defender in the league from the champions, Juventus. However, the new captain has disappointed so far.

While a period of acclimatisation is expected for any player, Bonucci’s quality suggested an immediate upgrade would be on hand for Milan’s defense. Nonetheless, taking on the mantle of leader, without the likes of Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini beside him, has proven tough so far. He also hasn’t been helped by Montella’s formation tinkering and having to line-up with different defensive partners.

For Montella, a settled side, with or without a plethora of newcomers, would perform better in the long run. Milan have a number of options in defense and midfield but it is in attack where the focus will be, come January.

Carlos Bacca is on loan and seemingly on his way out as he does not fit Montella’s style of play. A quality forward needs to be brought in to replace him as newcomers Andre Silva and Niko Kalinic have shared the load so far this season, but the duo only have two goals between them in the Serie A.

Silva is one for the future and a solid enough option but he is playing his first season in arguably the toughest competition for attackers in Europe. If Milan want to meet their goals they need consistent quality leading the line.

According to AC’s sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli, who spoke to Radio Rossonera, Torino’s Andrea Belotti is still being considered as a target.

While the start to the season has been lukewarm it is not time for the new owners to panic. If Milan continue to win the games they have both domestically and on the continent then the season should be a good one.

The Rossoneri are undefeated so far in the Europa League and should continue that trend to make into the knockout rounds. How far they progress from there is dependent on Montella working out all the kinks.

If Milan continue to win the games they have domestically that should keep them within touching distance of the minimum goal, a return to the Champions League. One would expect that the quality of the likes of Bonucci and Lucas Biglia will help propel the club in the big games still to come.

Milan are now seven points away from a Champions League spot but that does not mean the axe should fall. Montella was given a vast upgrade in quality but, as with any other team in this situation, the new players will take some time to gel.

The board will be watching the team’s progress carefully and will be especially keen on the result of the next big game which is a home visit from Juventus.

At least Milan fans can be assured of one thing, if patience is not a concept for the new board then old favourite Carlo Ancelotti is available. Over to you Montella.

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AC Milan

Could AC Milan be set to make a move for Chelsea’s Diego Costa?

Jake Jackman

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Diego Costa

Diego Costa doesn’t seem to have a future at Chelsea, but he has yet to leave Stamford Bridge this summer and time is running out for the striker to find a new club.

AC Milan have been one of the busiest clubs in this transfer window and they have been linked to the Spanish international in recent days.

Chairman Marco Fassone has told Sky Sports that he has spoken with Jorge Mendes about his client:

“We went to see Jorge Mendes; there is a lot you can talk to him about. Costa is a great player but he is of Chelsea. That’s all.”

Antonio Conte will want to see the striker leave the club this summer, as he caused problems last season and didn’t show the commitment that is demanded by the Chelsea boss.

Alvaro Morata has moved to West London, while Michy Batshuayi is showing good form in pre-season.

There is no longer a place for Costa and it would be in everyone’s best interests if he did depart before September.

Would he be a good signing for AC Milan?

The Italian giants are trying to once again compete at the top end of the European game. It won’t be a quick rebuilding process, but they have big finances behind them and their recruitment this summer has been superb.

They have managed to sign several great players, including arguably the best defender in the world, Leonardo Bonucci. There will be a desire to add one more quality player and Costa could be that man.

There are few better strikers in world football when Costa is in the mood. Last season, he was superb for the majority of the campaign as he played a significant role in Chelsea regaining the Premier League title.

He is an intelligent mover and his aggressive style means that defenders don’t get a moment to rest when he is on the pitch.

The 28-year-old is a great finisher with either foot and capable of scoring with his head. Milan will want to add another goal threat to their attack and Costa would be a great signing for them in their current state.

How likely is a transfer?

Chelsea will be keen to sell him this summer in order to bring in funds and get him off the books.

There is no longer a place for him at Stamford Bridge and he could become a huge problem if he were to stay past this transfer window, as he isn’t the type of character to react well to being sidelined.

The club will be pressing for a departure and if AC Milan do have a serious interest, they will have a good chance of signing him.

It would be another significant transfer for Milan and they would improve their Serie A title chances considerably if they were to add Costa to their striking ranks.

He showed last season that he can play a major role in a title-winning side and Milan would benefit from that.

For the striker, himself, it would give him a new challenge and an opportunity to lead the revival of a huge European club. Everyone would be a winner if this did go through.

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Why AC Milan’s Vincenzo Montella will be the most under pressure manager next season

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Vincenzo Montella
Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Zinedine Zidane, Unai Emery and Antonio Conte. What do these managers have in common?
They are among the elite managers who will be under enormous pressure next season for a number of reasons. Nonetheless, there is one man not yet in their category who will be on the hottest seat of them all next season: Vincenzo Montella, the manager of AC Milan, will head into his second season in charge with lots of eyes on him.
AC Milan have had the most eye-catching transfer window so far and there is still over a month to go. The Rossoneri capped of what has been a very decisive summer so far with the best signing of all the big teams.
Their capture of Leonardo Bonnuci brings arguably the world’s best defender to the San Siro and weakens a major title rival, Juventus, in the process. That is not a move many expected from a team that has finished in 10th, 7th and 6th in the last three Serie A seasons. Another big win for the Italian giants came with the extension of  Gianluigi Donnarumma’s contract.
One major reason Montella will be under pressure is the presence of new ownership.
Milan’s former owner, Silvio Berlusconi, and a group spearheaded by Chinese businessman, Li Yonghong, finalized the long-awaited change of ownership. The new owners and their executives have wasted little time in making their mark.
Milan’s CEO, Marco Fassone, and sporting director, Massimo Mirabelli, have adopted an approach that would make many a Football Manager aficionado proud as they have almost assembled a new squad in one window. Bonucci is one of 11 new signings by the club so far this summer.
All this means Montella has plenty of expectations to live up to in the new season.
Milan’s new owners may focus on a return to the Champions League in public. However, privately they will surely be expecting more. The board, the fans and the footballing public will want to see how Milan performs after a summer of significant change. Montella did well with what he had last season, winning the Italian Supercup and leading the team back to Europe, but this is an entirely different challenge.
The former Fiorentina boss will have to integrate his new signings, almost all of whom will play a key role, while ensuring the continued progression of youngsters like Davide Calabria and Manuel Locatelli. The experience of winning silverware last season will help while Bonucci’s leadership and experience will be vital.
Montella will also be tasked with ensuring that arguably the best team he has had in his career plays stylish, winning football in homage to Milan’s history. Whether or not the expectations will be fair is another matter.
The most even-keeled fans will be satisfied with a strong run at silverware in all competitions and a return to the Champions League. Still, it is not unthinkable that this mixture of talent could do better if Montella makes the right decisions.
Juventus will still be favorites as they continue to add talent and retain the league’s best tactician in Massimiliano Allegri. The Old Lady may be preoccupied with Europe this season, though, considering their recent heartbreak on the continent.
The jury is out on the other two major contenders. Napoli played some scintillating football yet fell short in key moments while the boost in productivity from Edin Dzeko could only do so much for Roma. Both sides will feel some measure of confidence after Bonucci’s departure but they have previously failed to capitalize on any moments of weakness from Juventus.
The fact that these teams have the easier Champions League schedule to contend with does work against Milan but the growing list of additions should provide Montella with the depth to compete. There is the possibility of more to come, as well, with the transfer window over a month away from closing.
According to Italian outlet La Repubblica, as referenced by reputable Spanish publications AS and Marca, Atletico Madrid may look at the possibility of loaning Diego Costa to Milan for the first half of the season should they sign him from Chelsea this summer.
With Carlos Bacca likely to leave, as reported by ESPN, the Rossoneri still need a quality striker to lead their resurgence next season. Such a move would heap even more pressure on Montella to get results.
Milan’s season officially begins with a Europa League qualifying tie on July 27. That will give Montella more time to get any kinks out of his side and, hopefully, get the season off to a positive start. The positive performances for some of the new signings in the most recent friendly against Bayern will heighten expectations.
The question of when the two sleeping giants of Italian football, Milan and Inter, would rise again has been constant in the last few seasons. Milan’s actions this summer suggest that time may have come. Montella’s task will be to ensure that his side lives up to the hype created by this summer’s activity.

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