Tonight’s Coppa Italia 2nd leg match against Roma will see our great captain enter the record books once again by joining the few players in football history to play 1000 professional games, for me he is the perfect player that any team would love to have he has bags of ability and stamina, he’s a great leader of his team and most importantly he is extreemly loyal, his 16 year career at Inter proves he loves this great club of ours as much as every Interista on the planet and he would fight all the way to acheive Inter’s dreams and goals. Footballers around the world should take a leaf out of his book and play for the love of their club over their love for the money, but in this respect Zanetti is a rarity in the modern game and for his continued comitment to Inter we salute him as one of Inter’s all time greats!
The target is one thousand. One thousand appearances as a professional footballer – “I’m proud to have reached this figure. A thousand games, all of which mean a lot to me. It’s a very important personal achievement. So far I have made 33 appearances with Talleres, which was my first club, 66 with Banfield, 12 with the Argentina Under-23 side, 140 with the senior side and 748 with Inter: 999 in total. If I play against Roma, I’ll make it to 1000, which is a huge milestone. I’ve always done everything in my career with passion. Football has given me a lot and I’ve tried to do my bit whenever I’ve been called upon. Reaching this figure is also significant because there aren’t many players who have done it, just nine, and I’ll be the tenth; they are all famous names so it makes me very proud to be among them.” That was how captain Zanetti spoke, almost moved, about the milestone he hopes to reach in tomorrow evening’s match at the Meazza.Of the other nine who have made it to the 1000 mark – Peter Shilton, Ray Clemence, Pat Jennings, Alan Ball, David Seaman, Paolo Maldini, Andoni Zubizarreta, Roberto Carlos and Tommy Hutchinson – the Nerazzurri captain has particularly fond memories of Roberto Carlos and Paolo Maldini, “Two people that I have always admired a great deal; I’m very happy to be joining them. Maldini gave so much to world football, and from the moment I arrived in Italy I’ve always admired him for the career he had and for the person he is. Derby matches with him as an opponent were always very intense but also very fair. I have great memories of those.”
Zanetti then spoke about his behaviour on and off the pitch throughout his career: “I have always acted on the pitch just like the person I am. I always try to be myself – that’s very important to me.” And it seems it is appreciated not only by Nerazzurri fans but also by supporters of other clubs: “It’s so nice to meet people who maybe aren’t Inter fans but who come up to pay me their compliments anyway. That is a great recognition.”
Turning to the Coppa Italia semi-final and looking beyond, Zanetti said: “Tomorrow is a big moment for us: a cup semi-final against an excellent team such as Roma. Hopefully we’ll be able to celebrate afterwards. Then… I want to continue: 1001, 1002 and so on, until the time comes for me to say enough is enough.”
The skipper also mentioned the first coach he had as a professional, Norberto D’Angelo, at Talleres: “D’Angelo gave me the chance to begin this adventure in football which has taken me to where I am today. I’m grateful to him.”
His trip down memory lane than took him through his early Inter days: “My first coach was Ottavio Bianchi. My first room-mate at La Pinetina [Inter’s training ground complex – ed.] was Roberto Carlos: we had both just been bought by Inter and we shared a room. Actually, my very first room-mate was Benny Carbone, in Cavalese during our pre-season preparations, then it was Roberto Carlos once we started playing matches.”
Finally, a special thank you: “Thanks to all the fans I have had, who have always shown me so much affection – that’s something you can never forget.”
President Moratti was asked in about the memories he shares with the Nerazzurri captain: “I think what everybody remembers is that he never has a hair out of place… [smiling] Then there’s the fact that, even when he’s exhausted, he’s able to maintain the dignity, desire and pride of a professional footballer, the like of which I don’t think has ever been seen before. What sticks most in my mind when I think about Zanetti? The moment in which he was at his absolute happiest, which I think was in Madrid when we won the Champions League. He’s not the sort of player who expresses his joy wildly – he also has his role as captain to keep up – so the times when you see him really happy stick in your mind. That night he turned back into the young lad he was when I first signed him.”
All in all Javier Zanetti is a true legend, not just for Inter but also for football in general, his professionalism and commitment to the game ensures that he receives the greatest respect from all football fans around the world even if they don’t support the mighty Nerazzurri and even at 37 years old he has proven he can hold his own against the youngsters and i’m sure he’s got a few years playing time left in him yet.