”The real football icon.” – Roberto Mancini
It’s not long now until Inter veteran Javier Zanetti returns to grace the Serie A with his presence once more after a near career-ending injury. The veteran wing-back, aged 39 at the time, ruptured his Achilles tendon in April’s 1-0 defeat to Palermo and is keen to bounce back better than ever. And after a recent check up he believes he will be back in training with the rest of Walter Mazzarri’s troops by the end of October.
During his downtime he signed a one-year contract extension that will take him past his 40th birthday and close to two decades with the club. Not bad for a player that was once rejected by Independiente at an early age and who has since went on to become one of Argentina’s greatest players. After agreeing new terms he applauded Inter for standing by him and said: ”They have shown once again their belief in me and my passion for Inter. I am doing everything I can to come back fit and healthy and to be ready for the coach and my teammates.”
So the love affair between Zanetti and Inter continues with the Argentine, who club owner Massimo Moratti once described as ‘his best ever signing’, will continue well beyond his playing days after he confessed to be keen on coaching. Zanetti is a relic from a bygone era, a talented player who has stayed with the club he loves despite lucrative contract offers to move. His decision to stay at the San Siro has been rewarded with trophies galore and he bypassed Guiseppe Bergomi as their all time appearance holder.
On and off the field he is the model professional and this has helped prolong his illustrious playing career, which seems set to continue, and will help write his name in the annals of Serie A and Inter’s history.
In his spare time he helps spearhead Fundación PUPI, a charity that helps the poorest children in Argentina, and with teammate Esteban Cambiasso, another charity, Leoni di Potrero, which focuses on aiding youngsters with social and motor coordination difficulties. And since Zanetti’s arrival in Milan in 1995 it has been all sweet rosemary and wine for him in the garden of the San Siro.
He’s been the club captain since August 1999, deployed and played across the defence and midfield with relative ease, became the most capped Argentine player in history, racked up numerous team and personal silverware and played under 20 different managers. Interestingly enough, he has already bypassed his older brother Sergio Zanetti’s playing career by two years after he retired from football in 2006 aged 38 – his last team were Swiss cracks FC Locarno, and coincidentally enough, Sergio was also once the Inter youth squad boss.
When Zanetti returns to first team action he’ll be three months past his 40th birthday and will be making his debut under current incumbent Mazzarri – the 20th Inter manager in his time at the San Siro. But as history dictates, both sides of Milan both have a habit of keeping their elder statesmen in good condition, and we shouldn’t be surprised if he’s still pulling on the black-and-blue stripes well into his mid-40s.
Javier Zanetti factfile:
Born: 10 August 1972 in Buenos Aires, Argentina
• Playing career: Talleres (RE) (1991-92), Banfield (1992-95), Inter (1995-present)
• International caps: Argentina (145), Argentina U23 (12)
• Honours (club): Inter: Scudetto (5), Coppa Italia (4), Supercoppa Italiana (4), Champions League (1), UEFA Cup (1), FIFA Club World Cup (1)
• Honours (international): Pan American Games (1)
[Stephen Coutts is a footballer and sportswriter based in Glasgow, Scotland. His blog, The Dirty Tackle, is a wonderful supporter of Oceania football and well worth checking out!]
Categories: Roma/Italian Calcio
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.