Zlatan Ibrahimovic must "listen to his body" as he ponders his future in football after an injury-hit season with Milan, according to legendary Italian striker Francesco Totti.

The Roma icon also compared Ibrahimovic's stop-start season to the end of his own playing career, although he acknowledged he was often benched despite not suffering from as many injuries as the Swede has.

Ibrahimovic could win his fifth Scudetto in the coming weeks, with Milan holding a slight advantage over Inter, Napoli, and Juventus at the Serie A summit, but has started just 11 of the Rossoneri's 32 league games this term.

The Sweden international, who missed out on the chance to represent his country at the 2022 World Cup after a play-off defeat to Poland last month, has impressed when he has featured in Serie A, netting eight times in 19 league appearances at a rate of 117.25 minutes per goal.

But with Ibrahimovic reportedly set to miss another batch of games after suffering a knee strain, talk has turned to whether the legendary striker could hang up his boots in the near future.

Totti, however, hopes to see the 40-year-old play on if he can continue at a high level.

"Ibra, listen to your body," Totti said. "Finish [the season] with a goal and then decide. Nobody can understand it like me, it's scary. He made history, but now it depends [on his physical condition].

"I hope he will continue as long as he feels like it, but only if his body allows him to be able to be as decisive as he always has been. 

"Ibra is a lion on and off the field. But playing 10 minutes and then stopping, spending more time in the medical room than on the pitch, being given injections, that's heavy. 

"It's been five years [since Totti's own retirement], but I remember all the sensations, and watching Ibra in the last period, I relive them, even if my situation it was a little different from his. I hadn't had any particular injuries.

"I felt I could still give my contribution, but I was quickly pushed aside. I would not wish my last year on my worst enemy. It was very heavy on a mental level.

"[It was] exhausting, because when after a life on the pitch, you do not play continuously, especially at a certain age, you are not letting your body rest, you are making it rust."

 

Totti scored one goal in 18 Serie A appearances during the 2016-17 season, his final campaign with the Giallorossi at the end of an incredible 25-year spell with the club, but all but one of those appearances came from the bench.

The 45-year-old registered 250 goals and 105 assists in a glittering Serie A career which saw him make 618 appearances overall, and said he would have loved to have played with Ibrahimovic.

He also believes Ibrahimovic could move into coaching at the end of his playing career, but would need to find a club capable of matching his ambitious personality.

"If they were to propose to him to be a manager, he must immediately demand clarity and transparency," Totti added. "There are two questions to ask; what should I do? And who should I do it with?

"Ibrahimovic is a brilliant man, if we had played together, with my assists, he would have scored a hundred more goals!"

Francesco Totti leapt to the defence of under-fire Roma head coach Jose Mourinho by saying the Giallorossi do not have any world-class players, while calling for time for the Portuguese to overhaul the Serie A side.

Mourinho – who arrived in the Italian capital at the start of the season – has cut a frustrated figure amid Roma's run of just three wins in nine Serie A matches.

After a 3-0 loss to Inter on Saturday condemned Roma to back-to-back losses, Mourinho snapped at a journalist and refused to answer his question in a media conference, having cancelled his pre-match news conference.

Mourinho has also been critical of recruitment, the former Tottenham, Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Inter boss determined to bolster his Roma squad in January.

As pressure mounts with Roma sitting seventh in the standings and nine points adrift of the Champions League places, club great Totti showed his support for Mourinho.

"To win you need the [right] players," said Totti, who is Roma's all-time leading appearance maker and scorer. "To win it takes an important manager. It takes a club that makes you feel at home at every level of your employment here.

"They have to be always available for everyone here but the most important thing, as we all know, if you want to win you need the players. It is a necessity, the foundation [of victory].

"I don't want to disrespect our current squad now, because it is an important squad with important players. But there are no 'champions' [world class players], and this is plain to see. Only good players who can do well in a certain context."

Roma have not won the Scudetto since 2001, while not since 2008 have they claimed silverware.

Mourinho's Roma have lost seven of their first 16 Serie A games for the first time since 2008-09.

Totti – who spent the entirety of his professional career at Roma, making 786 appearances in all competitions, scoring 307 goals and winning one Serie A title – added: "When we talk about Roma, I feel huge emotions.

"As a fan, I can say we are not in a great period but 'if you are not Roma, you don't suffer', this is our motto as we say and I guess we are used to it, to these topsy-turvy seasons.

"But I am sure the board and the gaffer [Mourinho] want to put back a smile on us fans' faces. A city like Rome deserves respect and most luminous stages than what we are watching now.

"Give them time... but not too long and hope we can see Roma back to shine at international level."

Jose Mourinho is not the problem at Roma and the club and fans must stick with him, according to Giallorossi legend Francesco Totti. 

Roma appointed Mourinho last May and invested around €130million on new players – the biggest close-season outlay of any Serie A team. 

Things started positively with Roma winning their first six competitive games of a season for just the third time in their history, but they have been victorious in just four of their subsequent 12 outings. 

Mourinho became the first Giallorossi boss since Luis Enrique in 2011 to lose their maiden top-flight Derby della Capitale in September, while the following month he suffered the heaviest loss of his managerial career when Roma were hit for six by Bodo/Glimt in the Europa Conference League. 

The next week his 43-game home unbeaten run in Serie A came to an end at the hands of Milan, while November started with a disappointing draw at home to Bodo/Glimt and a shock 3-2 loss at Venezia. 

However, Totti does not believe Mourinho is at fault for Roma's slide in form and believes his pedigree is more than sufficient for a show of faith. 

"If we think Roma's problem is Mourinho, it means we have everything wrong," Totti told Sky. 

"Mourinho has won more than all the other Serie A coaches combined – hats off to him. 

"You have to focus on him. He is a great coach and a great motivator. He knows how to manage the group, he knows what to say and what to do. 

"The club and the fans must stick with him." 

Despite their poor form, Roma sit sixth in Serie A and are just three points adrift of the top four. 

Lionel Messi will have the option to bring his long-standing association with Barcelona to an end in a matter of hours.

The 34-year-old's Camp Nou contract is set to expire on July 1, leaving him free to move on from the club where he has spent the entirety of his 17-year professional career thus far.

Fortunately for Barca, that outcome looks unlikely, with recent reports suggesting that the Argentina great is on the verge of agreeing fresh terms.

Should Messi put pen to paper on that extension, it will increase the possibility of him joining the ranks of players who spent their whole careers at just one club. 

Here, we take a look at five of football's most celebrated one-club men.


Paolo Maldini (AC Milan)

Indisputably one of the greatest defenders of all-time, Maldini made his Milan debut as a 16-year-old in 1985 and spent the next quarter of a century at San Siro, winning seven Serie A titles and five Champions Leagues.

Ryan Giggs (Manchester United)

Like Maldini, Giggs progressed from prodigious young talent to distinguished elder statesman as he represented United from 1990 to 2014. Two Champions Leagues and 13 Premier League titles sit among an astonishing 34 honours amassed by Giggs across 963 senior United appearances.

Francesco Totti (Roma)

Totti bid an emotional farewell to Roma at the end of the 2016-17 campaign after 786 competitive appearances and 307 goals – matching Maldini's record of appearing in 25 Serie A seasons.

Carles Puyol (Barcelona)

A long-time team-mate of Messi's and the captain of Pep Guardiola's mesmeric treble winners of 2008-09, Puyol won six LaLiga titles and three Champions Leagues. With 593 appearances for Barcelona to his name, the defender sits fifth on the club's all-time list behind Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, and the outright leader Messi on 778.

Matthew Le Tissier (Southampton)

A mercurial forward with a knack for scoring improbably audacious goals, Le Tissier was regularly linked with the leading lights of English football during his 1990s heyday. He remained loyal to boyhood club Southampton to cement icon status on the south coast, although a mere eight appearances for England provides a talking point about what might have been possible had he not resisted offers from bigger clubs. 

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