Gervinho has been quoted as saying that the veteran attacker “no longer makes assists” but the Giallorossi coach has leapt to the defence of his captain

Roma boss Rudi Garcia has pleaded for Francesco Totti to be left “in peace” and not be made “a scapegoat” for the team’s slump during the second half of the season.

The Giallorossi suffered a dramatic dip in form after the turn of the year that saw them go from challenging Juventus for top spot in Serie A to battling it out with city rivals Lazio for second place.

Roma have now moved back ahead of the Biancocelesti thanks to back-to-back wins over Genoa and Sassuolo – two games for which Totti was left on the bench.

Gervinho added further spice to the debate over whether the Giallorossi are a better side without their club captain by stating that Totti “no longer makes assists”.

However, Garcia, speaking on the eve of Roma’s trip to AC Milan, has pleaded for an end to the discourse.

“Firstly, I think [Gervinho] was joking,” the French coach told reporters on Friday. “But in any case, we have to leave the captain alone and not make him a scapegoat.

“He has always given everything for the good of Rome.

“Leave Totti in peace. He’s a great player and makes headlines every single week. He’s an important player for us. 

“He may start, he may come off the bench – the only thing that counts is winning in Milan.”

Garcia also requested an end to speculation over whether Radja Nainggolan will sign a new contract with the club.

“Every player is important and no player is more important than any other in my eyes,” the former Lille boss added.

“We don’t have time to get distracted; we need to keep our concentration up.

“Nobody should be thinking about their own personal situation.

“It’s not the time to be speaking about the transfer market or next season’s squad, we just need to focus on the field of play.”

Second-placed Roma are just one point ahead of Lazio, who host Inter at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.