Last Saturday, May 10th saw one of Inter Milan’s finest servants, Javier Zanetti, finally call to an end a glittering career that has had plaudits flooding in from all over the world.
Javier Zanetti has finally decided to hang up his boots and has exited the sport at the highest level with almost 20 years of continuous service to the Nerrazzurri. With just one round of fixtures left in this round’s Serie A, the San Siro waved goodbye to one of their own this weekend.
Zanetti was a versatile defender with an engine envied by his footballing peers. Idolised by all factions of the Inter family, little did he or then owner Massimo Moratti know that this partnership would stand the test of time and give Internazionale 19 years of sublime service.
The Argentine was Massimo Moratti’s first signing when he bought the club back in 1995 and as soon as he took pride of place within the confines of the Giuseppe Meazza, Moratti suddenly sacked Zanetti’s first manager Ottavio Bianchi; Zanetti would go on to have 21 managers in his colourful Inter career.
Despite this constant upheaval, Zanetti would continue to put in consistent performances season after season. One aspect of his life that Zanetti placed a lot of emphasis on was his health. He showed the importance of conditioning through a regimented routine that sadly seems to fall on deaf ears for many of today’s current primadonnas. A model example of how to do the right thing, proving that longevity can surpass the average retirement age of 35 if one conditions themselves properly.
In 1995 the fresh-faced Zanetti decided to try his craft in Europe and Inter was his destination, transferring from Argentine club Banfield. Despite the rigours and stress heaped upon any footballer playing at the highest level Zanetti looks like he hasn’t aged one bit. However, the 40-year-old ‘El Capitano’ realised that his evergreen attitude could not last forever and decided to put an end to his glittering career.
Zanetti’s announcement came earlier in the week and the club gave their prized ambassador a fitting send off during their 4-1 victory over Lazio in the San Siro. Coming on for Jonathan in the second half, Javier was inundated with with deafening emotion as their leader’s last game had the San Siro in raptures of applause.
“I feel the time has come, I feel fulfilled and complete. Do I fear life after this? No, there is no fear.”
He will miss the dressing room and the competition football brings with it, but Zanetti will leave with his head held high. He will take up the vice-presidential role within Inter Milan and no one embodies the spirit of the Italian club more effectively.
Zanetti was awarded the captaincy of the side in 1999, and would hold onto the armband for fifteen years; a truly remarkable and a template for current footballers throughout the world. A dedicated family man, he conducted his affairs with utter style and class and never found himself involved in controversy on or off the pitch.
With 16 trophies in just under 20 years, one wonders if we’ll ever see the likes of Zanetti again. He has the most appearances for any foreign player in Serie A history and also the most caps for Argentina. A born leader, Zanetti was a stalwart in every dressing room.
When an Achilles injury in April 2013 nearly ended his career, Javier soldiered on and decided to return to the Inter side for one more season. This adversity in the face of disappointment epitomised the determination within Zanetti.
Born to Italian descendants in Buenos Aires in 1973, his childhood instilled into him a strong working ethic that moulded Zanetti’s immense character. By holding down a couple of odd jobs while continuing his schooling, this character building helped Zanetti to become the person he is today; a grounded leader amongst men.
With Zanetti’s commitment to the cause and gentlemanly attitude it would have been sacrilege had he not tasted European glory, but the treble success of 2010 gave him what he richly deserved.
The retirement of Javier Zanetti brings with it a certain amount of disappointment, but as the world looks on they can rest easy, content in the knowledge that they have witnessed one of the game’s greatest servants.
Liam Cairns, Pundit Arena.
Featured Image By Stefano Stabile (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.