Ode to an extraordinarily ordinary man

MILAN – A footballing cross between Peter Pan and Superman, today he bids farewell to the stage where he has performed for 19 years of his career. He has Peter’s everlasting youth, created by hard work and supported by enthusiasm, while he has the fairness and spirit of a superhero.

Javier Adelmar Zanetti is 40, the time when wrinkles appear and your hair begins to thin, but ever since he got off the plane at Malpensa in the summer of ’95 he has changed very little. He is an extraordinarily ordinary man, an extremely rare trait in a world where everything tends to alter reality. He, though, has always done things his own way. He’s Mr. Loyal, to both Argentina and Inter (holding the appearance records for both), loyal to Paula, long-time girlfriend now wife and mother to his children, loyal to his body, even loyal to his hair which over the course of 19 seasons we’ve never seen out of place, unkempt or shaven.

His extraordinary ordinariness has been tested by disappointments and defeats, victories and silverware but it has survived in spite of all that. The captain’s incredible credibility is something recognised the world over. There’s no opponent who does not respect him, no coach who feels betrayed by him, no team-mate who has not received his encouragement. The humble, hugely important Captain, there’s only one ‘Capitano’, has experienced tears of joy in Madrid and 19 years of training sessions, 5,700 days at the Centro Sportivo Angelo Moratti. His appearances currently stand at 856 and he has won 16 trophies.

In total that makes up 6,556 days with the Nerazzurri, give or take a few, because no one can stay in that sort of shape without training over the holidays too.

He grew up in a poor part of Argentina, showing greater talent on the pitch than in the classroom. He is the best example of ‘if you want to do something, you can achieve it’. Perhaps you might be like a million others but if you put the hard work in, you can do it. Javier waves goodbye to footballing action, and he will miss it like oxygen, regardless of what the future has in store for him. And it will take a bit of time for it to sink in that the name of Javier Zanetti will no longer be read out in the starting line-up over the public address system. Because from one moment onwards, almost immediately, Zanetti was synonymous with Inter.

Some people have the Nerazzurri tattooed on their skin, Javier Zanetti has it etched in his heart.

Photo courtesy of Panini.