Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know I regularly exclaim ‘CLONE ZANETTI’ during Inter matches. I sometimes write it even when the Nerazzurri aren’t playing. I’ve never really had the opportunity to say that when Inter were on the field without their captain, because that just doesn’t happen. He was so rarely suspended, rested or injured that the idea of Inter without Javier Zanetti seems alien. We’re going to have to get used to it now, but hopefully not for long.
‘Pupi’ is one of those players who transcends club colours. He is absolutely the symbol of Inter, yet Milanisti, Juventini and absolutely everyone else adore him. Zanetti personifies fair play, hard work and everything that is good about the sport. Even at the age of 39, when older than Coach Andrea Stramaccioni, the man you always see tracking back to defend or pushing forward to put in a cross is Zanetti. If someone makes a mistake, he’s the one who will step in to plug the hole, regardless of what area of the pitch it’s on. When Inter-Tottenham went to extra time in the Europa League this season, there were 21 exhausted players keeling over for a moment’s respite, plus one who was hopping around doing warm-up exercises, looking fresh as a daisy. Guess who?
A torn Achilles tendon is a devastating injury and usually keeps players out of action for around eight months. For anyone else about to turn 40 in August, this would be the end of a glorious career. However, this is Zanetti. He is the original Bionic Man. He’ll outrun us all and eventually leave his body to medical science so doctors can discover what makes him the next phase of human evolution. Inter should’ve listened to me. If they’d cloned him, we’d have a spare by now.
Not only do I believe Zanetti will be back – I am sure he’ll use this time off to earn a coaching certificate, become Italy’s next Prime Minister and solve world hunger. At least one of those, anyway.