Today at the San Siro in Inter Milan's 2-1 aggregate semi-final Coppa Italia success over Roma, veteran defender and captain Javier Zanetti participated in the 1,000th competitive match of his eventful football career. To mark the occasion, the Argentinian defender wore a commemorative captain’s armband bearing the inscription "the 1000-match Hall of Fame", a legend that also appeared below the Inter crest on his shirt.
While it can often be difficult to establish exact playing statistics over such a long period, in this particular case Zanetti himself was on hand to extrapolate some of the details.
was Zanetti’s total number of appearances prior to today’s Coppa Italia match with Roma, as he recounted from memory: “So far I’ve played 33 games for Talleres, my first team, 66 with Banfield, 12 for Argentina U-23s and 140 with the senior national team. Since arriving in Milan, I’ve represented Inter 748 times, which includes 534 Serie A matches, which comes to 999 games in total.” Serie A aside, he also played in 140 European matches, 62 Italian Cup games and 12 encounters in various other competitions.
years of loyalty to Inter Milan has turned him into the fan favourite he is known as today. Zanetti made his debut back on 28 August 1995, in a 1-0 win over Vicenza. Practically unknown prior to that match, the young defender immediately established himself in the team, and would go on to become arguably the most profitable signing in the history of the club. At the beginning of the 1999/00 season, the coaching staff showed no hesitation in appointing him captain, as a replacement for the retiring Giuseppe Bergomi.
different numbers (2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8) have been worn by Zanetti over the years at Inter, for whom he has fulfilled every defensive role – apart from goalkeeper – in the team at one time or another, always in the same effective manner.
candles will be present on Zanetti’s birthday cake on 10 August 2011. “I try to enjoy every training session and every match. I’m happy. I know that the time to hang up my boots will come one day, but for the moment I’ve not given it much thought. I tire myself out more chasing after my sons Sol and Ignacio than I do playing 90 minutes,” he explained with a smile. That fact would not come as a surprise to former Nerrazzuri coach Jose Mourinho, who stated of his captain last season: “I knew that he was a force of nature, but I didn’t realise to what extent. They must have got the date of birth wrong in his passport.”
red cards in 534 league matches is one of Zanetti’s most impressive statistics. “I’ve always remained the same. That’s the thing that I’m most proud of,” explained the Argentinian international. This record was achieved despite his battling through many memorable “tough derbies”, where he regularly faced a fellow member of the exclusive 1,000-game club, AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini, a player much admired by Zanetti.
honours were secured by Zanetti during his Inter Milan career, with practically no competition left unconquered. He won five Serie A titles, three Italian Cups, four Italian Super Cups, one FIFA Club World Cup, one UEFA Champions League title and one UEFA Cup.
goals is Zanetti’s career total, a more than respectable tally for a defender. 12 of those came in the league, while one of them was scored in the 3-0 win over Lazio in the 1998 UEFA Cup final. He also found the net five times on the international scene, including a memorable strike for Argentina in a 2-2 draw with England, in the Round of 16 of the 1998 FIFA World Cup™ in France.
international appearances were amassed by Zanetti for Argentina, making him the Albiceleste’s most-capped player. His debut came on 16 November 1994 in a 3-0 friendly win over Chile in Santiago. Part of the starting XI at the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cups, he was then overlooked by Jose Pekerman ahead of Germany 2006. Alfio Basile brought him back into the fold in 2007, handing him the captain’s armband following Roberto Ayala’s retirement. The Diego Maradona era saw Zanetti lose the captaincy to Javier Mascherano and fail to make the 23-man squad for South Africa 2010. Remarkably, Zanetti made a phoenix-like return to international football under new Argentina coach Sergio Batista, playing in a 4-1 victory over world champions Spain in September 2010. “I’m pretty sure I’ll be at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but as an Argentina supporter!” he joked. But given Zanetti’s durability, nothing is ever certain.
times Zanetti has finished in second place with Argentina, a team with which he has never managed to win a major honour. He has twice been runner-up in the FIFA Confederations Cup (in 1995 and 2005), as well as in the Copa America (2004 and 2007), and he had to be content with a silver medal at the 1996 Men’s Olympic Football Tournament in Atlanta.
is the total number of games played by Peter Shilton, the former England international goalkeeper, who holds the all-time record for competitive appearances in world football. Below him come two other keepers, Shilton’s countryman Ray Clemence (1,118 games) and Northern Ireland’s Pat Jennings (1,096). Another Englishman, Alan Ball (1,054) sits fourth, and has the distinction of being the highest-placed outfield player on the list. Two of Zanetti’s idols have also surpassed the 1,000-match milestone: Italy’s Maldini (sixth with 1,040 matches) and Brazil’s Roberto Carlos (eighth with 1,010).