APPIANO GENTILE ? Javier Zanetti is expected to make his 800th appearance in the same shirt when he steps onto the pitch at the Stadionul Ceahlaul in Piatra Neamt on Thursday. He’ll run and he’ll battle for the same colours, he’ll captain the same side and once again he’ll be the leader of that side. His aim as always will be to give his all and to do it for his fans. As always, Inter fans.
As he prepares to make yet another landmark appearance, the Nerazzurri skipper spoke to Andrea Paventi in an exclusive interview with Sky Sport 24.
How do you feel about being so close to yet another milestone?
“First and foremost I’m happy. In all honesty I can say that when I pulled on this shirt for the first time I could never have imagined it might be the first of 800 with the same shirt, the same club. It’s an achievement that fills me with pride, especially because it’s happened in such a great place with such a great family as we have here. I’ve experienced a lot of different things but I’ve always been aware that I was the captain of a great team.”
If you had to choose one moment from all those 800 games which is especially dear to you…?
“There are lots of moments. Perhaps two in particular: the night before I made my Inter debut, because I saw San Siro as being so far away that the thought of being a part of it was like a dream to me. The other one was the night before the Champions League final – the target we had been aiming for for so long and which we finally achieved with that unforgettable triumph.”
Are moments like that night in Madrid so far away from this current Inter team? What do you think of this new Nerazzurri project?
“A new project is starting up with lots of youngsters and experienced players such as myself. But more importantly we’re starting over with the determination to make up for last year, which was a bad year. There’s so much enthusiasm around the place and we can’t wait to get stuck into the games that matter so that we can show everyone that we’re in with a shout too.”
What type of targets have Inter set themselves this year?
“We must try to have our say in all the competitions we’ll be involved in between now and the end, and try to go into the business end of the season with a chance of challenging for one of the big prizes. Juventus are no doubt the team to beat because they are the Scudetto holders, they haven’t changed much and because they have great strength and belief in their own ability. Then there are the usual teams: I think Roma are looking good because they have brought in a new coach; they have chosen a very intelligent coach who knows what this game is all about and they are doing everything they can to play a big part in things again. There there’s Milan, although they have made lots of changes. I think it will be a very open league. And we mustn’t forget Napoli either. They won last year’s Coppa Italia and they challenged until the end in the other competitions too.”
What does Antonio Cassano’s arrival at Inter mean?
“Above all it’s motivating because he’s a fantastic player. If he does join, he’ll strengthen a squad that is determined to become a major player once more. We know him well, we know what sort of player he is. and he’s also a very likeable lad. Hopefully together we can lead Inter on to great things again.”
Can you tell us what you’re going to put in the letter you’ll leave on the table for Antonio Cassano in Appiano Gentile?
“Here he’ll find a group of people willing to help him and who will welcome him in style, which is what he deserves, trying to get Inter challenging at the top and playing football that the fans can enjoy.”
Are Inter relaxed about the two legs against Vaslui or is there something you are worried about?
“There’s always something to worry about but we’re preparing for these two games as best as we can. We know the first match is particularly important and we’ll be playing at a difficult ground, but I also know that Inter are ready for it.”
We’ve read about Javier Zanetti still being the best dribbler on the pitch but how do you see your future? Over the next 10 months will you be thinking about what you’re going to do when you retire?
“I will think about it, for sure. But my main concern will be having a big season with my team-mates, trying to do my bit for the cause at all times – especially in the difficult times – and come the end of the season I hope to see myself lift a trophy or two. Then there will be time to spend with my family and think about what will happen.”
Has Andrea Stramaccioni given this team a new-found identity and solidity? Can you tell us who you think could be the star of the coming season, even though we’re only in August?
“I’ll say Palacio, who has already shown what he can do in a short space of time. As for what the coach is doing, we got to know him last season but now that we know him better I can say that he’s a man full of desire and enthusiasm to put all his ideas into practise with us and try to get this Inter running at full steam.”