Longtime Inter Milan captain Javier Zanetti is set to retire from football at season's end. The defender will immediately assume another role with the Italian club as a director.
Mark Doyle of Goal reports Zanetti was not interested in joining the Nerazzurri coaching staff, but accepted an administrative role he will assume after the campaign. Club president Erick Thohir said the agreement allows him to focus on the rest of the season:
I met with Zanetti some months ago in order to understand his vision.
He will be part of the directors, but we're agreed that for now he needs to contrate on the final games he has to play.
The 40-year-old legend arrived to Inter in 1995 after short stints with Talleres and Banfield. He immediately stepped into an important role with the Nerazzurri and never looked back. Nearly two decades later he'll retire as one of the club's all-time greats.
Zanetti has appeared in more than 850 matches across all competitions for Inter. From the time he arrived until this season he never played fewer than 30 games in a season, showcasing his durability and consistency regardless of the role he was asked to play.
He has only appeared in 11 matches across Serie A and Coppa Italia play this season, however, as the signs his playing career was nearing its conclusion mounted.
By announcing his retirement now instead of waiting until the summer, it allows him to get the sendoff he deserves over the club's final three matches. The Nerazzurri face AC Milan on Sunday before his final match at San Siro next weekend and the season finale against Chievo Verona on May 18.
The announcement also led to an outpouring of messages on social media, including one passed along by Forza Italian Football that shows the defender through the years:
Zanetti also made nearly 150 appearances for the Argentine national team before stepping away from international duty in 2011. His decorated career included five Serie A championships, four Coppa Italia titles and one Champions League triumph.
Soon he'll turn his focus to his new role as a club director. He figures to excel in that role, as well. As somebody who has been around the Italian game for so long and displayed a wide range of skills, he should be an asset in terms of scouting and development.
But first, he has a few more matches to enjoy as a player, and the response he's going to get during his final home match should be a memorable moment to help close out a terrific career.