In his younger days, he had everything it takes to become accomplished full back. Electric speed, strong and balance body despite of his slender frame, and enormous lung capasity to keep running for 90 minutes or even 120 minutes. Knowing such characteristic, you would imagine the bullish fullback that relishes the slugfest with attackers. But those are wrong. He always aim for clean challenges and when he must do sliding tackle, he does it cleanly too. Ask any player who chased the 50-50 ball thrown at them. They weren’t lost because of dirty trick or nasty tackle. They lost to 175 cm player whose running was enough to fend off much heavier players then robbing the ball from them. Statistic proves that until now he has only received 2 red cards. And his offence ability was something any attackers jealous of. His running stroke the fear into any defence even once he skipped the challenge of Baresi and Maldini duet. Time flies, years goes by, he doesn’t have those pace anymore, but he compensates the lost with versatility. Throughout his career, he has played all the position from back to midfield. While centerback isn’t his habitat, he does the rest of the roles with excellence. And don’t forget his famous consistency. He is so consistent for 90 minutes and for another 90 minutes and another even you would hear “he never has a bad game”

By now you must already know who is the player. Yes he is Javier Adelmar Zanetti, leader of Argentina and the captain of Internazionale Milan legion. Husband of  Paula, father of Sol. He is a great player, a very great player, but sadly only the few name him in the same breath like Maldini, Roberto Carlos, Cafu, Jorginho, Brehme etc. Why is he so underrated and underestimated ? This is because of his lack of trophies and achievement in his football career and it is because all the misfortunes and mistakes he has in his life.

National Team Disaster

He was born on 10 August 1973 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The first misfortune began. Zanetti was just 20 years old when the senior Argentine team grabbed their last trophy (Copa America) and he was still unknown youngster. By the time Zanetti goes to Europe and began to build his reputation as top fullback, the national team began to crumble after Bilardo stepped down  He didn’t participate in World Cup 1994, but 4 years later he got himself his World Cup debut. But, the mess has begun even when the tournament hadn’t begun. Coach Passarella omitted on-form Redondo for a mere long hair reason and they fell to Netherland hand in quarter final. Four years later, different man was in charge of Argentina yet he did worse mistake. It was Zanetti himself who was omitted from national team for the sake of relative unknown and absolutely worse player in form of Scaloni. Four years gone by, he made it to the national team only to lose against Germany in penalty shoot out. Had led the scoreline by 1-0 until minute 60, Pekerman decided to substitute 19 years old Messi and it proved to be the blooper. Messi’s running with the ball terrified static Germany defence all day long but eventually he was replaced with event more static figure of Julio Ricardo Cruz. Thus, Argentina lost their cutting edge, unable to launch quick counter attack on desperate Germany, succumbed a goal to Podolski, and ultimately wiped out from the tournament. Gone by another 4 years and Zanetti received another ridiculous reject. After captaining Inter Milan to legendary treble, it seemed Zanetti will fill the primary role of right back. In Inter Milan, Zanetti formed an airtight defence system with Cambiasso and Samuel and the rest. And, it seems they will bring the stability to their national team after long spell of disastrous defence. But surprisingly ridiculously outrageously stupidly the current coach Maradona omitted him and put Jonas as a right back and pointed Ariel Garce as the sub.

Another Disaster At Club Level

One can’t choose his where and when he was born, but he could choose the best option for his life. Zanetti didn’t. At age of 22, the unknown Zanetti decided to move to Inter Milan in 1995 who had just elected their new president Massimo Moratti. Back then, Inter had never won scudetto since 1989 and never won Champions League for  39 years. With the new president, it ought to be a very turbulent and unstable era. The decision seemed terrible indeed when 3 years later after the arrival he saw Juventus robbed the Scudetto from Inter in scandalous manner. The only success was Inter won UEFA Cup, still a far cry compared to Maldini who won Champion Cup in 1992 and 1993 or Del Piero in 1995.

And here is the biggest blooper one couldn’t imagine. In 2002, Inter was amidst the gloomy dark age. Winning was miracle, draw was a blessing, and lost was common. And then came an offer from ambitous Real Madrid which were building the Los Galacticos. He would be the main right back, he would won trophy that any footballer longs for. He would play under renown Vicente Del Bosque, didn’t have to listen to the like of Tardelli, Lucescu, and any mediocre coach. He didn’t have to sprint through 2 or 3 defenders to no avail because his effort would be paid off with Raul and Morientes as finisher. He would receive deft through ball from Zidane and Figo. And, with wonderkid Casilass and classy Hierro-Helguera at the heart of defence, he didn’t have to see his team concedes stupid goal like he did in  Inter. He would got all such luxuries with nothing but a nod, a yes, and a signature on Real Madrid contract paper. But what happened was he turned it down. A laughable decision, isn’t it ? Yes it is for any football pundits, but not for Interisti. They were ready to see their favourite player left them for good, but what the Madrid reject was too good to be true. No demonstration required, no need of showing the jersey on the window, Il Tractore chose to stay in bad time without good time with Inter.

Madrid predictably took the glory, won Primera Liga and Champions League while hundreds kilometres away in Milan the Nerazurri lamented over the lost of should-be-won Scudetto. A draw over Lazio would take Inter to be a champion of Italy and even Laziale supported Inter over their club because they don’t want to see 2-point-trailing Roma took the chance of Inter slip up (hatre over love, it happened again 7 years later). And Roma really did.  Inter lost 4-2, Juventus won the match and thus won the miraculous Scudetto and Roma also won dumping Inter to the 3rd place. By then Zanetti already suffered the Scudetto lost twice although it seemed he already had one hand holding it. And his decision to stay on the mud pool of Inter instead of great palace of Madrid really seemed the worst decision he had ever made.

Light At The End Of Tunnel

Two years later he got what he deserved. A Scudetto which were handovered from Juventus because of notorious Calciopoli. Although it is a bit unsatisfying, at least he had a long dreamt Scudetto. A year later finally he felt the being the champion after battling on the field for a year. Still, the victory is less satisfying if your rivals aren’t at their best, isn’t it ? That’s what happened when Zanetti won another Scudetto while Juve was grounded to Serie-B and Milan’s point was reduced from the very start of competition.

It was 15 years after the start of his career in Inter Milan that he received his greatest reward for being loyal and consistent. He was the captain of the first team in Italy who won Scudetto, Coppa Italia, and Champions League in a season. A glorious treble. What a deserved success for player who kept fighting for 15 years with terrible teammates, terrible coaches, and terrible management. Of the 3 trophies, the Big-Ear was what delighting him the most. It is the most sought trophy in Europe club competition and Zanetti never won it even once. And the moment he won it, he was the leader of the team who never won the competition for 45 years. They defeated England double champion Chelsea, Germany double champion Bayern Muenchen, and Spain double champion Barcelona which were considered the best team in history. But Zanetti led Inter paved their way through them, tinting the golden ink in club history and brought the joy to Interisti around the world.

Grazie Javier Zanetti ! Salute !

It is astonishing and remarkable how a great player could such unachieving career. The suffering, misery, disappointment, and frustration are unimaginable. Every match he always gives his best but the team always let him down. He always stands out among his team whenever all of them play horribly bad. But amazingly, he is always stay composed and never berating his teammate however bad they are. The easiest solution is the escape to better team. There is nothing shameful with it especially for player with Zanetti calibre. Batistuta moved to Roma to get Scudetto, Kaka moved to Madrid, Fabreagas moved to Barcelona and so on. But Zanetti could resist the temptation. The chance he got was from the currently greatest club in the world Real Madrid yet he declined for the sake of love and loyalty. They are rarely found escpecially in such materialistic and individual world. But the sacrifices has been all paid off. He has won almost everything in club level. He only missed European Super Cup, but he won Scudetto, Coppa Italia, European Champion League, Super Italia, and Club World Cup. But the biggest victory he has achieved is not his trophy, it is the heart of everyone. Throughout his career, he has won everyone’s respect and his rivals is not exception. Zanetti is the adversary of every Inter’s opponent, but he is not enemy. His skill, mental, conduct, and character should be exampled by the players of next generation. We don’t know when he will retire as he still is the best player of the disastrous season. But by the time Zanetti retires, it will be time when football losts one of the greatest figure in history. Grazie Zanetti !

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