Inter legend Javier Zanetti says Romelu Lukaku has disappointed the Nerazzuri with his actions this summer. Zanetti was speaking in a lengthy interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, where he looked back at his long career with Inter, but also took a moment to touch on the Lukaku situation, following the Belgian’s decision to open talks with Juventus:
Fifty years, Pupi: it’s time to take stock.
“Of these 50 years, I spent 28 in Italy, at Inter, and this is a privilege. I’m a happy father and professional, also thanks to the people’s gratitude. I’m not talking about the Inter fan, but also about the opposition” .
What stage of life begins now?
“A phase in which I still work in the team and for the team, as always. Whoever thinks ‘what is Zanetti doing?’, know that I’m behind the scenes. I try to be useful so that things work. I’m a resource: the corporate side, the coach, the sporting side: everyone knows I’m there when needed. Even for social projects in my role in UEFA and Fifa, always thinking about the growth of the club. And I try to improve myself: to continue a career you need to prepare, learn. In a certain sense to train and… toil”.
But where does the pleasure you have always had for hard work come from?
“Now I’m not just talking about keeping fit. I’ve enrolled in the ‘Management and Entrepreneurship’ course at Bocconi: in March or April I’ll complete it to have a 360° view of football. Fatigue and sacrifice are not a way of doing beautiful things, but a need to feel good”.
Let’s start from today: what was missing in Istanbul that was in Madrid?
“I was expecting a final like this, played evenly and with courage. The opportunities exploited and a little luck, that’s what was missing, but we’re proud of us.”
Do you see in Inzaghi something of the masters you had here?
“His main characteristic is tranquillity, serenity in difficult moments. The strength not to doubt the work, to insist: this calm that the strong have was also possessed by Gigi Simoni”.
Did you say a few words to the new Argentine Inter captain?
“He has taken the right steps, with humility: I am delighted with Lautaro’s journey. He must confirm his leadership with even more responsibility, but he has a sense of belonging and knows how to set an example. This is what a captain does, let the facts speak for themselves up front to comrades”.
If Zanetti is a symbol of integrity, Lukaku is becoming the opposite for the fans.
“For what Inter has done for him, we expected a different type of behaviour. As a professional and a man. He has the right to go where he wants, God forbid, he just had to say it in time. Nobody, however, is bigger than the club and when building a team you always have to consider who you put in a dressing room.”
By rewinding the tape to the past, you choose the images to tell these 50 years.
“The first is my presentation in 1995 together with Rambert, who was much more awaited by me. I came from another world, in front of me giants like Mazzola, Corso, Suarez, Facchetti. At that moment I said: ‘From here I have to move with tanks…’ Then the tears, like for the 2003 semi-finals. If you manage to get up from moments like this, then you’ll do it a thousand times until victory. And for this I put Madrid, the Champions League in my hands. Another photo is the farewell match in 2014 against Lazio, San Siro full for me. And, to close, my three children, the family that completed me”.
Who is the strongest with whom you played: it is forbidden to say Messi or Ronaldo the phenomenon.
“They are in another category, so I say Zidane: he was unique, he hid the ball from you, with intelligence, class, physique”.
Who is the most underrated or the most misunderstood?
“Recoba didn’t express all of his greatness. Pirlo was great elsewhere, but only because he wasn’t here at the right time”.
Who the ‘cutest’?
“Maicon, amazing fun, and Taribo West who once disappeared. He was in Nigeria getting married and after the wedding he had to spend some time at home…”.
Have you ever thought that if your Inter had been less “crazy” you too would have been more happy?
“It wouldn’t have been Inter, so romantic and unique: I’ve never thought of this trait as negative, on the contrary it makes us different, capable of anything. We have no limits in this madness. Anyone who passes through here always thinks back with joy to Inter , maybe he wants to come back… Management can change, but we mustn’t lose our identity: this is why I’m fighting”.
But what exactly does this identity consist of?
“A sense of family that I have breathed since the first day. A resilient family in difficulties, which gets back up together”.
And the identity of your family? Are you more Argentinian or Italian?
“My children were dressed in blue after Italy-Sweden 2017: they cried for the lost World Cup. In Doha, however, they were all albiceleste: they cried like France, and then we cried together for joy. This double identity is beautiful”.
But isn’t it that there in Doha he also thought… ‘a pity I didn’t succeed in my time’?
“No, no envy or regret. I played 145 matches for the national team, a record, and I gave everything. But we were one: I understood that by embracing Messi.”
Pupi, where do you see yourself as an old man?
“I see myself active, always ready to give everything for Inter. Because Inter will always be there for me. Even if I don’t have a role or stay away from the club, I can’t take these colours off.”