AS Roma legend Francesco Totti has visited a teenage footballer in hospital who emerged from a nine-month coma after hearing a recording of the former Italian star's voice.
Ilenia Matilli, an 19-year-old footballer with Lazio's women's team but a supporter of city rivals Roma, was left in a coma last December by a car accident in which her friend was killed.
Former World Cup winner and Roma one-club man Totti had recorded a video message a few months ago, urging: "Ilenia don't give up, you'll do it, we are all with you".
Matilli finally emerged from the coma and as promised Totti, 43, visited her on Monday in Rome's Gemelli hospital where she is undergoing rehabilitation.
"She smiled at me, hugged me and started crying," Totti told journalists after the meeting.
"It was very exciting to meet Ilenia, when she comes out of hospital we will meet again."
Her father Stefano Matilli told Corriere Della Sera: "I have to thank a friend of my daughter who had the idea of contacting Francesco Totti and having him record a message.
"Francesco accepted immediately, you can see that he is a person with a good heart, talking to him today in the hospital was like talking to a brother."
Matilli can still not speak, but makes herself understood by gestures and expresses herself through a tablet on which she writes.
"Don't give up, you'll make it. Hurry up and get well. I'll come and visit you at home when you can talk and walk," said Totti.
Neurologist Professor Luca Padua praised Totti's "great ability to manage a difficult situation".
"The former captain did not imagine such a dramatic situation but in the end the atmosphere was very cheerful."
Totti, a 2006 World Cup winner with Italy, spent 25 years at Roma as a player before moving upstairs to the boardroom and subsequently departing that directorial role in June 2019.