AS Roma skipper Francesco Totti walked out of a Rome clinic Wednesday after surgery that will keep him out until the start of next season.
Totti, 32, is no stranger to the Villa Stuart clinic, where in 2006 he had a complicated lower leg operation that set him on the road to Italy's World Cup win.
''I picked up that (2006) injury on purpose,'' Totti quipped, ''and that means next season will be a great year for Roma''.
Asked if he was feeling good about heading home, he replied: ''I was at home here too, they treated me very well''.
He said it was ''still too early'' to say when he would be back on the field.
Asked about rumours that Hungarian-born US magnate George Soros may be poised to bid for Roma, Totti would only say ''for me, the club should always speak Italian''.
As for fan-radio rumours that a Soros takeover could provide the cash for star strikers like Liverpool's Fernando Torres, Lyon's Karima Benzema or Inter Milan's Adriano, Totti said ''There were names going around even before I got hurt. Now perhaps we'll get two (strikers) instead of three''.
''When I get back I expect to find a stronger team, if we want to be competitive,'' said Totti, whose team was knocked out of the Champions League by Manchester United and looks set to lose the Serie A title to Inter.
Roma doctor Mario Brozzi said Totti would start rehabilitation on Thursday and would be able to remove his brace in about three weeks.
''Tomorrow Francesco will be at Trigoria (training ground), like a good captain,'' Brozzi said.
The doctor who operated on Totti, orthopaedic surgeon Pierpaolo Mariani, told Italian radio on Monday that he had ''found a perfect knee, a fighter's knee.''
''Just as he made a miraculous recovery the last time, he'll do the same now,'' said Mariani.
Totti surprised many by coming back in 2006 in time to play a large part in Italy's victory.
Asked how long it would take Totti this time, Mariani confirmed earlier estimates that ''four months is about the right time''.
That means Roma should have Totti back by the start of the season on August 31.
The Roma icon had a cruciate ligament in his right knee replaced after it snapped during Roma's 1-1 draw against Livorno Saturday.
The result meant Inter, 1-0 winners at Torino Sunday night, were able to widen the gap at the top to six points with four games to go.