By Terry Daley
TURIN, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Inter Milan's evergreen Javier Zanetti showed class is permanent after returning from a seven-month injury lay-off as a late substitute in their 2-0 Serie A win over Livorno on Saturday.
The 40-year-old's 10-minute cameo lit up a pedestrian match at the San Siro which, until Yuto Nagatomo struck in stoppage time, looked to have been settled by a 30th-minute howler from Livorno keeper Francesco Bardi, who is on loan from Inter.
"I have to thank the immense crowd, the president (Massimo Moratti), all those who stayed close to me from the club doctors to my team mates and everyone who wanted me to come back," said Zanetti who has been sidelines with an Achilles tendon injury.
With the Moratti era drawing to a close after 18 years, with the club president having recently sold a controlling stake to Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir, Zanetti is a timely reminder to the current squad of what it means to be a winner.
The veteran even stole the show on a night when all the attention was initially on the departing Moratti.
Zanetti was a key player in Jose Mourinho's 2009/10 treble-winning side and beyond his on-field qualities he is respected by fans in Italy for his longevity and classy behaviour off it.
Inter coach Walter Mazzarri has made it clear the Argentine fullback is the man his players should look to for inspiration if they hope to match his achievements.
"If the boys want to become greats then they should have a look at the example set by Zanetti, at what he did in only 10 minutes on the field," said an enthused Mazzarri.
"He's something special, a world class player, as soon as he came on today he made the team calmer.
"To come back at his age after such a long lay-off and be immediately so confident, it's extraordinary. He's bionic." (Reporting by Terry Daley; Editing by Ken Ferris)
- Sports & Recreation
- Javier Zanetti
- Inter Milan
- Massimo Moratti
- Yuto Nagatomo
- Francesco Bardi