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Totti and Puyol played for love of the game, not the cash

The biggest challenge is to keep improving, says Mattar

Image Credit: Reuters
Francesco Totti (L) and Carles Puyol (R).
Gulf News

Dubai: Legendary players Francesco Totti and Carles Puyol and UAE’s star player Esmail Mattar have expressed their dedication to the game, saying that it wasn’t money that drove them to the pinnacle of the sport.

“I preferred football to money, that’s how I’ve always been,” said Totti, speaking at the 12th Dubai International Sports Conference.

“Until last season, my objective was to play and be on the field. Now my priority is to invest my time in Roma and promote the club around the world,” he added.

From left: Esmail Mattar, Carles Puyol, Francesco Totti and Moderator Mustafa Agha, during a discussion at the 12th Dubai International Sports Conference. (Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf News)

Totti also revealed that he is an old romantic when it comes to football. “Football was simpler when there was less money floating around the game. I really prefer the football of the past. Today, it is just crazy. The game has changed totally between my time and now. I prefer the romantic football of before, now it is all about business,” he said.

Totti feels that loyalty has been lost now. “The most romantic aspects of football are loyalty and belonging, not the commercial side,” he said. “Certain numbers in the transfer market are out of touch.”

Referring to the going rate of $250 million for a player, he said: “There are players like Ronaldo and Neymar, but Neymar is an example of this big price. It is too much to pay $250 million for a player. This goes beyond reality. Those amounts are crazy, but we cannot control this and that is the way football is going.”

When asked who he considers the best player, Totti said: “The best player in the world is Messi, but don’t tell Cristiano Ronaldo or Neymar that.”

When asked whether he would take up coaching, Totti said: “I am not thinking of becoming a coach. I believe you should have a bent of mind for that. Many think about coaching when nearing the end of their career but it did not happen to me. Maybe one day I will.”

Puyol said he was so focused on the game that he never thought about life after football, or about taking up coaching. “I haven’t thought about starting a school or lending my name for an academy, or starting a foundation,” he said. “Right now I have to be with my family, I have two growing daughters. I do propose to start a school, but not now.”

Totti and Puyol feels that the way forward for UAE players is to try and play abroad. “I think they should be playing in Europe or abroad to learn more. When you play in Europe it will reflect international experience and benefit the national team too.”

Puyol too stressed on UAE players going abroad and said: “When you go to Europe you can play with better players and that will reflect in the national team.”

UAE player Mattar said that what had helped him is the focus to improve every day. “The biggest challenge is to keep improving. Be it 43 or 34, as long as you learn something new every day — even in the way you exercise, it is important.”