On the 27th August 1995 a 23 year old Argentine excitedly lined up to make his first appearance in European football .The boy who had helped his father with bricklaying, worked in a grocery store and helped delivering milk in the Dock Sud district of Buenos Aires. But now a man, Javier Zanetti had made it.
Almost 17 years to the day and now the 39 year old elder statesman of Internazionale lined up for his 800th appearance for the Nerazzuri against Romanian side Vaslui in the Europa League qualifying rounds.
The achievement is staggering for a man called bionic by his current manager Andrea Stramaccioni, himself 3 years younger than the imperious skipper. The manager paid tribute to him yesterday, commenting: “It's remarkable. I don't think I've even seen 800 games in my whole life! Zanetti should be cloned, because in my view he is not human. He's bionic."
Indeed there are players in the Inter Milan first team now who themselves were not born when Javier made his debut for the Milan side and his rise to legendary status is also in keeping with the historical nature of the club. After a group of Swiss men and a few rogue Italians disbanded from the Milan Cricket and Football Club (better known now as AC Milan) due to the dominance of Italian’s at the club the name Internazionale was chosen as a direct invitation for foreign players to consider themselves welcome at the new side.
It is 2 years since Javier earned his 700th appearance against Bayern Munich in the crowning moment of the Jose Mourinho era, captaining the side to treble glory, and cementing his place in Inter folklore.
With little sign of slowing down it would take a brave man to bet against the 39 year old being spoken about once again in a few years time as he reaches the 900 mark.
What are your thoughts on Javier Zanetti, how long can he go on?
image: © batrax