As Francesco Totti’s cool chip nestled in the corner of Manchester City’s goal last night, Champions League history was made.
The man once described by former coach Claudio Ranieri as being “as important as the Colosseum is to Rome” became the oldest scorer in Champions League history with his goal for Roma, at an age of 38 years and 3 days. Ryan Giggs had previously held the record, having scored against Benfica in 2011 aged 37 years and 289 days.
The goal adds yet another milestone to the glistening career of Il Gladitore, who first netted for Roma over 20 years ago.
Yet it’s remarkable that Totti is even still playing at 38, let alone scoring against the English champions in Europe's elite competition. The World Cup-winner is the oldest player in the Champions League and is one of just two forwards (as designated by Uefa) over 35 years in age, the other being Chelsea’s Didier Drogba.
In fact, it is incredibly rare for Europe's top clubs to call upon veteran forwards at all. The average age for a forward in the Champions League is 23 (some 15 years younger than Totti), the youngest of any position.
There are 204 forwards selected in the squads competing for this season’s Champions League, yet only 24 of those, or 11 per cent, are aged 30 or older. Goalkeepers are far more likely to stick around into old age, with 24 per cent of the men between the sticks in this year’s competition 30 or older.
Of the 20 oldest players in this season’s Champions League, there are three forwards, four midfielders, six defenders and seven goalkeepers. And Totti stand on top of them all.
Yet Totti was not the only golden oldie wearing the shirt of i Giallorossi in the Etihad Stadium last night. Roma manager Rudi Garcia is clearly a believer in the power of age, selecting 33-year old full-backs Ashley Cole and Maicon.
Roma have seven players over 30 in their squad, the second highest number in the Champions League after APOEL Nicosia’s eight.
As Garcia said following Totti’s 37th birthday last year: “It’s how old you feel that’s important, not the age on your passport."