An Argentine professional footballer, Javier Zanetti ‘Pupi’ was and is still considered one of the best players of his time and is especially and fondly remembered for the esteemed ‘Inter Milan’ club where he had dedicated almost his entire career.
Known for playing a key role in the legendary treble-winning 2009-10 season, Zanetti’s career was exceptional. He played a significant role in the team and quickly became the epitome of football, leaving the other members awe-inspired – his presence was a key factor in success but a humble smile never left his face even once.
Out of the many things he was renowned for, Zanetti’s versatility and adeptness on both left and right-wing certainly made him quite an icon in the Football industry.
Zanetti scored a memorable goal – his first trophy, the 1998 UEFA Cup – and went on to play professionally like a king. By this we mean, he simply won cup, after cup, after cup including the Club World Cup and the Champions League.
Javier Zanetti is currently the Vice President of Inter.
Born in Buenos Aires to working-class parents with Italian ancestry, Javier Adelmer Zanetti started playing football in the suburban fields at an early age. Upon reaching his teen years, he tried his hand by playing for the local club ‘‘Independiente’s Youth Academy’, but was unfortunately rejected due to lack of fit physique.
However, things took a turn for the better for him when Zanetti officially started his career in 1992 with esteemed clubs such as Talleres and Banfield.
From 1995, Zanetti played for ‘Inter Milan’ and from that point onwards he was known as a legend evidently since he also became captain from 2001 until his retirement in 2014.
Taking a sneak peek into his achievements and trophies, Zanetti had majorly participated in 1115 official games which ultimately and officially put him on the list of footballers with the most number of official appearances.
As a foreigner, Zanetti has won the title with the most appearances, (precisely, he crowns fourth place in the league, following Gianluigi Buffon, Paolo Maldini, and Francesco Totti close in toe.
During his time with Inter Milan, Zanetti broke almost every record as he made 853 appearances (that is a total of 73284 minutes!). Out of this 853, includes several appearances including European (160), derbies (47), etc.
Interestingly, he holds the record for most trophies won at the club with an impressive count of 16 – this is quite a major mark for a foreign footballer!
Having mentioned this, Zanetti also played 145 games with the Argentina national team, which cuts a pretty impressive figure. He reached the final of Copa America in 2004 and 2007, and the Confederations Cup in 1995 and 2005.
An interesting fact is that when naming his foundation, Zanetti chose his South American childhood nickname ‘Pupi’ as his choice.
Known to be a jersey number 4 player throughout, Inter Milan made a tribute to Zanetti by retiring the No.4 jersey symbolically retiring Zanetti, only to head him as the club’s vice president.
Zanetti ‘Pupi’ was renowned for delivering several record-breaking games which made him a legend.
He also made countless appearances at clubs, which made him on the list of men footballers with the most appearances – and this made him quite the raging footballer of his times.
Upon being rejected from Independiente back when he was much younger, Zanetti signed up for Talleres soon after, which was a second-division team.
Much later, at Independiente, he played 33 matches and scored one goal in the season, before moving to the First Division club Banfield in 1993.
Zanetti, a then 20-year-old star, debuted for Banfield in September 1993 during a game against River Plate and scored his first-ever goal in a match against Newell’s Old Boys. His outstanding performance was a widespread talk of the hour, which gained him popularity and earned him a call-up from the national team.
In 1995, Zanetti moved to the Italian powerhouse side Inter Milan, which had notoriously become the team owner Massimo Moratti’s first investment at that time.
Throughout Zanetti’s presence at the club, he won 16 trophies out of which 15 came under his very own captaincy – these included the prestigious UEFA Cup (1998), the Coppa Italia (2005-2011), Supercoppa Italiana (2005-2010), Scudetto(2009-2010) and the UEFA Champions League (2009-2010).
Impressively, Zanetti went on for 12 years without being sent off – the only two being the first time in February 1999 in a Coppa Italia match against Parma and in December 2011 in a Serie A match against Udinese; However, these two were his only two times being sent off during his entire career at Inter Milan.
Additionally, being a part of the squad for 19 long seasons and with a total of 858 appearances in all competitions, Zanetti is also known as the team’s longest-tenured player and the first overall.
He effortlessly surpassed Giuseppe Bergomi who had made a count of 758 appearances – which would be normally pretty impossible in the general sense, but this is Javier Zanetti we’re talking about and nothing is too impossible for this legend.
At Inter Milan, Zanetti played under the tutelage of 19 different coaches, making him the only one to have played under so many.
Known to be a man with emotions, Zanetti once mentioned that Inter meant a lot to him personally, and hoped that he would secure a future working behind the desk at his esteemed club after his retirement years.
Early Career, Midfield, and International Career
In his earlier years, precisely in 1995, Zanetti made his debut for Inter Milan at a game against Vicenza in Milan.
Zanetti scored a winning goal and this, interestingly, was Inter’s second goal in the 1998 UEFA Cup Final in Paris.
During the next two-year period, Zanetti captained the side consistently in place of an injured Ronaldo and was rewarded with permanent club captaincy in late 2001.
After Maicon’s arrival in the early 2006-2007 season, Zanetti was moved from right-back into midfield – he scored a rare goal in a home match against Ascoli in 2006, his last one coming in 2002 thus ending a four-year goal drought in his career.
Javier made century appearances in UEFA matches against Sporting, but this was nothing in comparison to the match he played against Bayern Munich, which marked his 500th appearance in 2006!
However, in 2008, Zanetti did a career first as he took and converted his first-ever penalty. The match at Supercoppa Italiana is considered significant in his career, as this was his first penalty for Internazionale.
After completing 500 appearances, Zanetti went on to celebrate his 600th match for Inter on September 2008 with an easy win against Lecce.
In May 2010, Inter Milan won the 2010 Champions League final against Bayern Munich, marking Zanetti’s 700th appearance for Inter Milan and making him the first player to captain an Italian club to a treble. Internationally, Zanetti debuted for Argentia back in 1994 against Chile, under the tutelage of coach Daniel Passarella.
Zanetti went on to represent his country at the 1988 and 2002 FIFA World Cups and was also a winning partaker in the silver medal-winning team at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, USA (1996).
In 1998, Zanetti was called up for the FIFA World Cup in that year in France, where he made a debut in the team’s opening match against Japan which ended in a close win. During the World Cup run, Zanetti also neatly finished off a move after slotting in from a neat Juan Sebastian Veron pass to ultimately win a Round of 16 match against England.
Later in 2007, Zanetti was awarded the National Giuseppe Prisco Award and after Roberto Ayala’s retirement, he was also given the role of captain armband.
Shortly after in 2007, Zanetti went on to be crowned as the highest-capped player for Argentina in a match against Bolivia.
However, Things started to move a little downhill in 2010 when Zanetti and Inter Milan teammate Esteban Cambiasso were excluded from the Argentina squad for that year’s World Cup. This move was frowned upon and heavily criticized by avid football fans from both South America and Europe.
Instead of selecting two icons, Ariel Garce, a relative newcomer with just two call-ups in the past five years was chosen to take part instead. Ultimately, Garce did not even feature for a single minute in the World Cup.
A friendly play against Spain in 2010, was a revered day for both Javier Zanetti and fellow legend, Gabriel Batistuta as they were both honoured by the Argentine Football Association (AFA) and were given a standing ovation by more than 48000 people. By now, he was recognized globally as a football legend with unmatched class, finesse, and panache.
In October 2010, although Zanetti was called for a friendly match against Japan, he could not play and withdrew last moment due to an injury.
Zanetti’s last hurrah for Argentina came in the 2011 Copa America that was held in Argentina. Zanetti featured in all four matches for Argentina before eventually getting dumped out by Uruguay in the Quarters.
Style of Play
In his days, Zanetti excelled as a quick, strong, and physically fit player whilst having outstanding ball control and dribbling prowess on the field. In defense, he mastered the art of reading the game and thus was a good-ball winner.
With passing age and vision, Zanetti effectively did well at distributing the ball to teammates.
Originally playing as a right offensive winger, Zanetti soon moved back to midfield where he was known as a tactfully intelligent and versatile player – a charismatic icon who was capable of playing anywhere and everywhere in either midfield or in defense. His style of play is as versatile as it gets, thanks to being a wide midfielder (or full-back) throughout his career, but also not shying away from being deployed as a central defender (or sweeper).
On fewer occasions, Zanetti was also deployed in more offensive roles but he did so with humble grace, and with an unmatched smile never leaving his face. Because of his unique style of play, his unmatched willingness to improve, and being an all-around player, Zanetti has been highly praised for consistency, determination, and high work rate in addition to his fervent discipline – all of these being a tribute to his hardcore, rigorous training sessions and under the excellent tutelage of various coaches.
In the current years, Javier Zanetti will forever be a name to remember, and the newer football aspirants will always look up to Pupi as their source of inspiration, for he may be retired today but he was always a timeless legend, an icon, and a passionate player above all.
Later Career, Retirement, and Post Career
As part of his later career in 2010 and at 37 years, Zanetti became the oldest player to score in the Champions League – in which he played in the opening minute game of Inter’s team win against Tottenham Hotspur.
This marked his second-ever Champions League goal, the first one being in December 1998 in a match against Sturm Graz.
In January 2011, Zanetti effortlessly overtook past Inter legend, Giuseppe Bergomi, in terms of Serie A appearances who before Zanetti, boasted of an impressive count of 758.
On May 2011, Zanetti crossed a milestone by making his 1000th appearance as a professional footballer playing against Roma in the Coppa Italia semi-finals.
Finally, in September 2011, he broke the all-time appearance record in a Serie A clash against Novara, surpassing Bergomi and closely after, becoming the club legend with the most appearances.
In 2014, in the home win against Parma, Zanetti marked his 1100th official match and went on to become the player with the fourth-most appearances of all time, listing right behind Gianluigi Buffon, Paolo Maldini, and Francesco Totti.
In 2014, Inter Milan’s chairman Erick Thohir broke the news that Zanetti would retire at the end of the season and become a club director. The announcement marked the end of an era and a glorious career of one of the finest ever players to play the game, not to mention an absolute gentleman.
Zanetti’s last competitive match at San Siro was a victory over Lazio in May 2014.
After the last game of the season, as mentioned by Inter’s chairman, Zanetti retired in 2014.
Javier Zanetti Career Stats
Zanetti made a total of 853 appearances – which was the highest in number and even surpassed legendary Giuseppe Bergomi:
|Name of Cup||Appearances|
|UEFA Super Cup||1|
|Champions League Qualifying||8|
|Europa League Qualifying||2|
|Club World Cup||2|