Inter Milan captain Javier Zanetti will retire from professional football at the end of the season, he announced on Tuesday. The 40-year-old defender has played in 851 official matches for Inter since moving to the Nerazzurri outfit from Argentinian club Banfield in 1995.
"I feel the time has come," Zanetti said to Argentinian newspaper La Nacion. "I feel fulfilled and complete. To retire at almost 41 still feeling in form has no price. Football has given me so much and I've enjoyed every moment."
Zanetti ruptured his Achilles tendon last year but came back and has featured in ten league games for Inter this season.
"After last year's injury, I really wanted to prove that I could still compete and I've managed to do so," he said.
The former Argentina international, who has won five Italian Serie A titles, the Coppa Italia four times, a UEFA Champions League trophy, a UEFA Cup and a FIFA Club World Cup during his career, will remain in Milan after the summer having accepted a role as sporting manager at Inter.
"Do I fear life after this? No, there is no fear," Zanetti said. "I will of course miss certain things, several aspects of the routine of a player, the moments in the dressing room and especially the competition. Yet I think that the fear must be for those who do not know how to occupy their new free time and fortunately in this I have resolved the issue.
"It is clear that nothing will be as before, but I am ready because I will continue in the world of football and this will keep me alive. I dreamed of finishing my career at Inter, in my home, and I have. It was a lifestyle decision to end the career in Italy, and now, in the function of a sporting manager, I will try to be useful to the team away from the field. A new world opens for me, and that excites me. There will be a thousand things to do."
When asked which games in his 22-year playing career he would like to play again if possible Zanetti said: "There are two, one to enjoy and the other to change the outcome. I would play again the 2010 Champions League Final (Inter beat Bayern Munich 2-0), to relive the magical night at the Bernabeu. And I would give everything to replay the game against Sweden, the one that cost us the elimination from the World Cup in Japan."