Walter Mazzarri said Inter’s players should “learn from Javier Zanetti how to be a champion” after a stuttering win over Livorno.
The 40-year-old captain made his comeback six months after rupturing his Achilles tendon.
“Zanetti has something special and you can see why he’s a world class champion,” Mazzarri told Sky Sport Italia.
“While the team was suffering, he came on for 10 minutes and gave everyone a sense of calm. To come back at his age after such a long lay-off and be immediately so confident, it’s extraordinary. He’s bionic!”
This was also probably Massimo Moratti’s final home game as majority shareholder before Erick Thohir takes over.
“Moratti was with us all day yesterday at training and had fun. I don’t know what he did in previous years, but he’s been very close to us this year. He even fired up the players before kick-off and we needed that, as Livorno are a dangerous side.
“After every match he has come into the locker room to congratulate or reassure the lads. We haven’t noticed any changes at the club level.
“To be honest, I had the utmost respect for Livorno and that has increased today. They are organised, strong, sharp and made us suffer tonight. They deserve praise.
“With the way we were playing in Udine, I expected something more vehement from my men tonight. We weren’t sharp enough and were always second to the ball behind Livorno, while at times we made some defensive errors.”
Tomorrow night Juventus and Napoli go head-to-head, so that could allow Inter to close on the leading group.
“I swear I do not watch any other games. I am concentrated on helping this team to grow, as we have so many young players. They need to watch the 10 minutes Zanetti played and learn that is how to be a champion.
“Livorno were stuck to us like glue and wouldn’t let us turn, so they made life very difficult. I will admit we played worse than against Cagliari or Torino, yet we won tonight and only had draws in the other matches.
“I have seen it happen that performances aren’t as good just before international duty. We didn’t create many clear-cut chances tonight, but felt there would be an error sooner or later that we could pounce on.”