Javier Zanetti is one of the most iconic players in Italian football history.
One of Inter Milan's greatest players, the Argentine has managed to defy father time and forge a career on the peninsula that has spanned almost 18 years.
Having initially made a name for himself as a roaming full-back, adept on either flank, but in recent years El Tractor has become indispensable as a centre-midfielder for the Nerazzurri.
Zanetti has played over 800 matches for La Beneamata and there are few compliments that have not been affiliated to the former Banfield player before.
Given that Zanetti is still a key figure for Andrea Stramaccioni's side, many wonder how on earth the 39-year-old has been able to keep himself at the pinnacle of the game for so long.
One must immediately pinpoint Zanetti's versatility, as just this season, he has been utilised as a right-back, left-back, right midfielder, left midfielder, centre-midfielder and even filled in on the right side of Inter's back three after Stramaccioni made changes mid game.
When such a player can perform adeptly across over half of the positions on the team sheet, it becomes tricky for the manager to leave the player out, even if Inter have enough cover in the midfield—especially after acquiring the likes of Mateo Kovacic in January. Kovacic is 21 years younger than Zanetti. Stramaccioni will be hard pushed to name four or five players who are better in each of the positions that Zanetti is capable of playing.
Another reason for Zanetti's ability to remain at the top with Inter has been the enormous amount of transfers that Massimo Moratti bankrolled. Each time the Nerazzurri have entered a transitional season, the side's identity has been preserved by Zanetti. It's all but impossible to discard him.
Managers have come and gone in Zanetti's time—17 appointments since his arrival at Via Turati. That also enables him to remain at the club, as each manager has needed a player with the club in his heart to represent the spirit of the team and set an example for the team moving forward.
The personality of the player has also been key in his longevity. The epitome of professional, Zanetti, despite his success, has never allowed himself to believe his hype. He also follows the same routine today as the one that allowed him to break through in professional football.
Zanetti revealed in an interview with UEFA last year that he does not "mess around when it comes to fitness" and that the key is to train with "the same intensity that you experience in a match."
Lastly, Zanetti embodies dedication and never makes excuses, perhaps to the detriment to other aspects of his life, as he turned up to Argentina's training camp for international duty on the morning of his wedding.
Zanetti goes that extra mile, striving to achieve things that even his club could never expect of him, which is what makes him so special.
The quality of Zanetti might be replicated some day, but when you add in his intangibles and supreme conditioning, you have the answer to how El Tractor has been able to defy the passing of time and forge a legendary career.