Inter Milan defender Javier Zanetti was given a rousing farewell by the club’s appreciate supporters after the 40-year-old Argentine ended an era by playing his final match at the San Siro on Saturday. Zanetti came on as a 52nd minute substitute during a 4-1 win over Lazio that booked Inter’s place in the Europa League for next season, a final high for a player who was a rock of consistency in his two decades at the club.
It was his 857th appearance for Inter since signing for the club in 1995, when he became Massimo Moratti’s first purchase as Inter president, and he could make one more in their final Serie A match of the season at Chievo next week.
The Argentine’s 614 Serie A appearances is bettered only by former AC Milan and Italy defender Paolo Maldini but is by far and away the most of any foreign player to play in Italy.
In that time Zanetti has won five league titles, scored in a 3-0 1998 UEFA Cup final win against Lazio and played a key role in the treble-winning 2010 side that claimed the club’s first European Cup in nearly half a century.
Zanetti will leave the game a symbol of better times for Italian football, when one-club legends like Maldini, Alessandro Del Piero and Francesco Totti helped make Serie A the toughest, and arguably the best league in the world.
Next season only Totti will be left, and his role at Roma is becoming increasingly marginal. “It wasn’t easy to take this decision, I’ve given everything I had,” Zanetti said. “I’m glad to be able to quit when I’m physically and mentally fit.”
Moratti’s sold his controlling interest in the club to Indonesian Erick Thohir last year and is now at the club only in an honorary capacity. Thohir, though, has assured fans that Zanetti will take up a backroom role but so far has refused to say what position.
Juve make points record
MILAN: Newly crowned champion Juventus beat Roma 1-0 Sunday with a last-minute goal and set a new points record for Serie A. Pablo Osvaldo’s stoppage-time winner against his former club ensured Juventus moved to 99 points, beating Inter Milan’s record.
Antonio Conte’s team can become the first Serie A club to reach the 100-point mark when it plays Cagliari in the last round at Juventus Stadium, where it has won all 17 of its matches this season.
Vasilis Torosidis had a goal disallowed for Roma for handball, while at the other end Paul Pogba’s angled drive crashed off the inside of the far post.
It appeared both teams would earn a deserved point from the match before Osvaldo was left unmarked to fire Stephan Lichtsteiner’s cross under the bar.
Earlier, Torino was held 1-1 by Parma. Europa League qualification will now be decided on the final day of the season. Torino remained sixth, a point above Parma and two above Hellas Verona continued…
Best of Express
PHOTOS- Femme Fatale: Kareena, Alia, Sonam, Jacqueline, Sunny Leone's award style