Javier Zanetti: A Tribute To An Inter Milan Legend
When Javier Zanetti scored against Tottenham Hotspur in Wednesday night’s Champions League game, he created another record. It's fair to say that the great man has plenty of records already attached to his name, but he became the oldest player to score in the Champions League at age 37.
Javier Zanetti’s love for Inter is incomparable. During the late 90s and early 00s, rumors circulated that Real Madrid were interested in signing the defensive ace. At that time, a move to Real would have represented an easy opportunity for Zanetti to add to his trophy cabinet, given the struggles Inter were in. However, Zanetti refused and stayed to fight for Inter’s cause.
After year’s of struggle, watching Il Capitano lift the Champions League trophy last season would surely have brought a tear to every Inter fan.
Having taken over the Captain’s arm-band in 1999, he is the perfect ambassador for the club both on and off the field. Few people, if any would ever have anything bad to say about him and that includes Juventus and Milan fans and players. That is probably the best tribute to a gentleman like him. Zanetti has also managed to maintain exemplary levels of fitness throughout his career. He almost never misses a game in the whole season.
All in all, he is simply Mr. Inter.
Following are some of the most memorable moments of Zanetti in an Inter shirt.
UEFA Cup Final 1998
It is always a great feeling when you can score in the final of a cup competition. However, when the final is against a club from your own league, the game takes on a whole new level of importance.
Zanetti scored in the 60th minute to put Inter 2-0 up and pretty much put the game to bed. His unstoppable shot hitting the underside of the crossbar and the sight of him running back and kissing the Inter jersey are etched in all our memories.
Inter Vs. Roma 2007/08
Roma played Inter at the San Siro with the Scudetto hanging in the balance. A Roma win would give them a clear edge, and Inter would have clearly thrown away the title, having had a big lead just a few weeks prior.
With two minutes of regulation time to play and Roma 1-0 up, Inter’s chances looked all but gone. Step up Javier Zanetti. The video alongside does much more justice than words ever could.
Inter Vs. Tottenham 2010/11
In recent years, Zanetti has become more of a defensive, holding midfielder than a fullback known for running up and down the field all day long. It was this attribute that gave him the pet-name Il Trattore or The Tractor for his ability to run up and down the field and go past opponents with consummate ease.
It was a surprise of sorts to see Zanetti pop up and score against Spurs, but a welcome one indeed. Once again, his puppy-dog enthusiasm after scoring a goal is more like a 17 year old scoring on a debut. If every young player can look to Zanetti for inspiration, they will have a very successful career indeed.
Red Card Vs. Parma, 1999
Zanetti last got a red card in a match against Parma in 1999 in the Coppa Italia, marking 11 years since he last received one. This speaks volumes of the type of player that Zanetti is.
What makes this all the more outstanding is Zanetti’s primary role as a defensive midfield player the last few seasons. His challenges are clean and almost always well-timed. When you see him ease players off the ball and come away with possession, it brings as big a smile on your face as seeing Wesley Sneijder curl a free-kick into the top corner of the goal.
Zanetti has all the makings of a future manager because he can read a game and unite a team with great success.
Inter Vs. Bayern Munich, UEFA Champions League Final 2009/10
If anyone has followed,Pupi’s career at Inter, they will know that the one thing he has always craved for is Champions League success. Having seen Maldini, his counterpart at Milan, have the joy if lifting the "big-eared" cup, it must have been painful to see his own team fall short on several occasions.
While he did not score in this final, unlike the 1998 UEFA Cup, his performances in the earlier knockout rounds as well as the final were top-class. Together with Cambiasso, the pair was able to shackle any opposition attack, even the previously unstoppable Barca.
Even at this stage of his career, Zanetti managed to play in almost all the games, without ever getting injured. One hopes to see Zanetti holding aloft the Champions League trophy once more before the curtain comes down on his illustrious career.