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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Milan and the Italian national team, an astonishing achievement, and it is little wonder that the number 3 shirt was withdrawn by the club in his honour.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

Victory in Milan, but is this another false dawn for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger?

Arsenal were triumphant in Milan despite their recent miserable form.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

Arsenal ended their losing run of four matches with an excellent performance away to AC Milan in the Europa League. This competition has the potential to save the Gunners season and the commitment from every player suggested that they want to go all the way.

They were coming up against a team full of confidence under Gennaro Gattuso. Milan hadn’t lost a match since the end of December. The Serie A club hadn’t conceded a goal in six and had won five of those inside ninety minutes.

These sides came into this fixture in remarkably different form, but football is played on grass and not on paper.

Despite Milan having more attempts, it was Arsenal who created the better chances. They had a couple of half-chances early on before the opening goal.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has had a hot and cold start to life in a Gunners’ shirt, but he was one of the best players on the pitch in Italy. His goal was emphatically taken as he drove the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma.

It is important to capitalise when you are on top, especially away from home in European competitions and Arsenal did just that. As the first-half progressed, they continued to create the better opportunities. Both Danny Welbeck and Mkhitaryan had good chances to double the visitors’ lead, but they were squandered.

(Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

In stoppage-time of half-time, Arsenal scored a second to give them a commanding lead in the tie. It was a great move from the team and Mesut Ozil found Aaron Ramsey who coolly rounded Donnarumma before putting the ball into the net.

The first-half performance from Arsenal was one of the best that supporters have seen this season. They were better all over the pitch and showed the work rate that they had lacked in previous weeks. Milan pushed in the second half, but they couldn’t penetrate the Gunners’ defence.

Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi were both excellent. Arsene Wenger will be hoping that both are returning to their best after some uncharacteristic errors in previous matches. The centre-back pairing made eight ball recoveries and were always in the right position on Thursday.

Patrick Cutrone is a teenager with a big future, but the young striker had no luck out of the Arsenal defence and that will encourage the manager.

Another player to emerge with credit is Danny Welbeck. The ineligibility of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the injury of Alexandre Lacazette means that the Englishman started the game up front for Arsenal. It was a huge opportunity for him after being pushed down the pecking order at the club and he took it with both hands.

The Englishman worked tirelessly and caused problems with his movement.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Although his final product wasn’t great, he was a constant threat and led the defensive effort from the front. Welbeck will never be a leading Premier League striker, but he is effective in matches such as this one. He deserves more opportunities during the run-in.

It would be too soon to get carried away for Arsenal fans. There are still questions regarding Arsene Wenger and the work rate of the players, but this was an excellent performance that finally provides the club with positive momentum. They have had a miserable few weeks and the supporters can get excited about their team once again.

When the draw was made, a lot of supporters checked their expectations when it came to the Europa League. Milan were the overwhelming favourites, but Arsenal have taken a dominant position in the tie and should be able to finish the job in London.

If they can do that, they will move into the quarter-final stage. Although it will be difficult to win it, they will have as good a chance as any.

There have been many false dawns for Arsenal in recent years and this could be another one. That said, it takes enormous character to go away to a huge stadium like the San Siro after a poor run of form and win comfortably.

Considering the criticism that they have had for their lack of desire, few would have thought the Gunners to be capable of a result like this.

It is now up to Wenger to prove that he can get this level of effort and performance out of his players on a regular basis. The Frenchman remains in a difficult position with no margin for error. If he is going to keep his job, he needs to finish the season strongly and win the Europa League.

It won’t be an easy challenge, but this performance and result will give him hope that he can upset the odds to claim his first European trophy.

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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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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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