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Apr 29, 2014

Retirement finally comes for ageless Zanetti

As Javier Zanetti retires from the game, FC's Stewart Robson discusses the impact Zanetti will end up leaving on the game.

Inter president Erik Thorir confirmed on Tuesday that Nerazzurri legend Javier Zanetti will retire at the end of the season and take up a position in the club's front office.

"The meetings with Zanetti have been going on for the last couple of months to understand his vision. The discussion is done already, he'll become part of the management," said Thohir.

- Report: Inter legend Zanetti to retire

I have to admit that when Zanetti ruptured his Achilles tendon a year ago, I did not expect to ever see him play again, especially at his age. At the time of his injury, Zanetti acknowledged the possibility that he would never play for Inter again saying:

"I just want to play at least once more in front of the Inter fans. I would hope it might be more than once."

For Zanetti to come back from this serious injury ahead of schedule is a testament to the type of professional that he is: Dedicated, hard working and never flashy.

While technically not a one-club player, Zanetti arrived at Inter in 1995 after short stints with Talleres and Banfield in his native Argentina, he will always be considered one of the all-time greats not only for Inter, but Serie A as well.

Zanetti holds the record for the most appearances by a non-Italian player in Serie A and his 850-plus matches for Inter is a record that will never be broken.

But it was not just his longevity that made Zanetti a special player. More importantly, he was a winner. Consider that at Inter, Zanetti won 16 trophies, 15 of them as captain. His trophy cabinet includes:

-- Five Serie A titles -- Four Coppa Italia Cups -- Four Supercoppa Italiana trophies -- One Champions League -- One UEFA Cup -- One FIFA Club World Cup On top of those domestic honors, Zanetti represented Argentina in the Olympics (1996) and two World Cups (1998 and 2002). In addition to his Inter honors, Zanetti picked up silver medals at the Copa America (twice), Confederations Cup (twice) and Olympics (once).

To me, Zanetti is that the last of a dying bred; like Milan's Pablo Maldini and Manchester United's Ryan Giggs; the kind of professional that you would want your son or daughter to mimic. In today's world where professional football players make as many headlines for there off-the-field antics as they do for their play on the pitch, "Il Capitano" is a throwback to lost era when players did their talking on the pitch.

Never flashy, Zanetti just went about his game the right way. He never got involved in the dark arts of former manager Jose Mourinho's treble winning side, but that is not to say that Zanetti shrank away from physical contact. When a hard challenge or stop was needed, the Inter captain was more than capable able of doing that.

But his game was so much more than it. You don't play at the highest level at age 40 without a great understanding of how the game is played. As he inevitably slowed down as he got older, that knowledge helped Zanetti maintain his place in the side because he was able to see where the danger was, often before it happened, and could move himself into the right position to break up a pass or start an Inter attack.

Ironically, the news of "Il Capitano's" pending retirement comes the week of the Derby della Madonnina, a chance for him to make one final appearance in front of a full and passionate Stadio Giuseppe Meazza. Zanetti understands the importance of the derby to the fans, whose passion and love for the club mirrors his own.

Whether it is on Sunday away to Milan or the following week, in what will be Zanetti's last home game, I am sure that the Curva Nord will show their appreciation for one of the all-time greats in club football: Javier Zanetti.