Roma coach Claudio Ranieri once again sprang to the defence of his captain Francesco Totti who could have landed himself in hot water for a furious reaction to being sent off.
Totti got involved in an altercation with Lecce’s Ruben Olivera as Mirko Vucinic was scoring Roma’s second goal in a 2-0 victory on Saturday.
TV cameras didn’t capture what Totti did but having been tripped up by Olivera, he apparently pushed the Uruguayan.
Referee Andrea Gervasoni showed both players a straight red card, meaning Totti will now miss next weekend’s Rome derby against league leaders Lazio.
The 34-year-old reacted by, in the words of La Gazzetta dello Sport, “losing his head” and he was seen charging after Olivera as the pair headed for the tunnel.
Several people, including bodyguards, were needed to restrain Totti.
But Ranieri preferred to focus on what he considered was an unfair dismissal.
“The sending-off was absurd, I hope the TV images will exonerate him,” said Ranieri.
“Now we will be missing our captain for the derby, that means we will be playing for him. His reaction was excessive because he felt, as we all did, that the sending-off was unfair.
“The referee should have managed the situation differently, the dismissal seemed extremely harsh.”
It is not the first time Totti has been involved in controversial incidents in a brilliant, but at times chequered, career.
Having spent his whole career with Roma he is their record goalscorer and most capped player of all time, while he sits sixth on the Serie A all-time scoring list.
But he has been involved in some unsavoury incidents such as during the 2004 European Championships when he was sent off for spitting at Denmark’s Christian Poulsen.
He was back in the spotlight for the wrong reasons during last season’s Italian Cup final in which he was dismissed late on after wildly kicking out at Inter’s Mario Balotelli, now at Man. City.
The young Italian of Ghanaian origin then accused Totti of having also racially abused him while Totti claimed it was Balotelli who had insulted him for his Roman origins.
Earlier this season, Totti criticised his coach following Roma’s 2-0 loss at Bayern Munich in the Champions League, claiming the team was playing in a defensive fashion, reminiscent of the unpopular catenaccio style.
Although Totti remains an icon for Roma fans, there has long been a debate in football circles as to whether he still warrants a place in the team now that he is well into his 30s.
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