Tribute: Javier Zanetti The Legendary Mr. Inter

It's fair to say that, Javier Zanetti has plenty of records already attached to his name. The great man created another record when he scored against Tottenham Hotspur to become the oldest player to score in a Champions League match at the age of 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 players and fans of Juventus or Milan. 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 and the followings are some of his most memorable moments:

Inter vs Lazio, UEFA Cup Final 1998

It is always a great feeling when you can score in any 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, Serie A 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 Hotspur, UEFA Champions League 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.

Inter vs Parma, Coppa Italia 1999

As of 2010, Zanetti has not received a red card in more than eleven years. The last time he was sent off was on 17 February 1999 in a Coppa Italia match against Parma. This speaks volumes of his charecter and even remarkable because he has been playing as a defensive midfielder in recent years. Without a doubt, his challenges are always clean and well-timed.

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 lifted the 'holy grail' of European club competition must have been painful, since his own team fall short on several occasions. All the agony and pain must have been washed away when he lifted the Champions League trophy. While he did not score in the 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 were able to shackle any opposition attack, even the mesmerizing Barcelona.

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