Pele warns Italy: You need Totti
By Nadia Carminati
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Pele believes Italy's bid for the 2006 World Cup hinges on Francesco Totti's recovery.
Pele believes Italy's bid for success at the 2006 World Cup hinges on striker Francesco Totti's ability to recover from injury.
Totti has undergone surgery after breaking his ankle last week and a projected return to action would have the player rated at touch-and-go to recover in time for the tournament.
Former World Cup winner Pele believes that should the worst happen and Totti fail to recover sufficiently then the Azzurri may have to overhaul their tactical system to cope with the loss of their main creative force.
"It will be a loss for the World Cup, for Italy, and all football lovers if he doesn't recover," Pele told Gazzetta dello Sport
"Without him Italy will be weaker because Totti is one of those players who can make a difference, for Italy, and for Roma too.
"There will still be other good players. I think of [Zinedine] Zidane with France and [Michael] Ballack with Germany but they have different characteristics and the team can play without them.
"Totti is the second forward and without him Italy must change their tactical scheme and find an alternative."
Despite Pele's warning, Fiorentina's free-scoring striker Luca Toni believes Italy are well-equipped to go all the way this summer after praising the team-building qualities of coach Marcello Lippi.
"Lippi has made the national team into a real team," Toni told Corriere dello Sport.
"It's like a club now - we are close with one another
"Lippi has given everyone a chance and it is good to know that doors are always open."
Toni acknowledges Brazil as the pre-tournament favourites but also highlighted Argentina and hosts Germany as potential rivals to the Azzurri.
"We must start in a strong way and it would be wrong to make calculations - in the qualifying round we have got Czech Republic and they will be a big obstacle," said Toni.
"Brazil are favourites but we can also win it. We don't hide that fact and that is our aim.
"Argentina and Germany will also be strong."
Toni added that he is confident that Totti will feature at the finals after receiving the assurances of the player himself.
"He will be there and he will be our key player. I've spoken to him after the injury and I understand he will be fit in time for Germany," added Toni.