Zanetti determined to overcome Achilles injury

Posted by Mike Whittaker

When Javier Zanetti was stretchered off the pitch in Sunday's loss at Palermo, a sense of absolute disbelief was felt not just by those associated with Inter, but also the entire footballing world.

AP Photo/L'Osservatore RomanoJavier Zanetti vows to recover from his Achilles injury as quickly as possible.

His immense fitness and stamina even at 39 years old had perhaps given the legendary player a superhuman aura, after all the Nerazzurri's 'il Capitano' has for a long time been considered a player who was seemingly immune to serious injury and the normal aging process shown by most footballers.

Such was the opinion that the Inter skipper couldn’t have possibly seriously injured himself, several players expected him to return to the pitch, an opinion that Jonathan shared with the awaiting press post match: "I thought he would come back on the pitch. When I saw he wasn’t coming back on I thought it could have been something a bit more serious. He’s very important to us, so hopefully it's nothing serious."

Unfortunately the injury is serious, and confirmation of a ruptured Achilles tendon was posted on the Inter website. It appears the worst fears about seeing the last of Zanetti on the pitch were likely confirmed.

-Zanetti dismisses retirement fears
-AC Milan fined for fan abuse of Zanetti

'Pupi' himself has other ideas, though, and in true super-hero style he has vowed to return to the pitch in his beloved Nerazzurri shirt: "My goal is to come back stronger than before, and I believe. I had to change tyres after so many miles . . .I’m sorry for how the season has gone. Injuries can happen and they’re part of this profession.”

After surgery (scheduled for Tuesday), he will be immobilised for eight weeks, before starting on his long road to recovery, which is estimated to see him returning to the pitch in eight or nine months. Former Inter doctor Piero Volpi has no doubts that his old friend will overcome this set back without too much trouble: "Zanetti has an exceptional physique and has never suffered any major injuries, so I think he will play again. Much of course depends on the motivation, but when I saw how he was joking when he left the hospital ('I had to change the wheels after many kilometers') it seems to me that he is already well underway."

It will seem very strange to have such a hugely influential player missing from the Inter squad for so long, especially as he has been a regular starter in all of the 18 years I’ve been an Interisti. I suppose this is a situation fans must come to terms with, as even when he does return we all know the day he hangs up his boots for good is in the not-too-distant future.

Inter president Massimo Moratti, who has been a good friend to his first-ever signing, knows the modern-day symbol of the club has both the determination and strength to return despite his devastating injury "It's very sad, I feel really bad for him. He knows that, I spoke to him straight after it happened. But with his character he'll be back, no doubt about it."

Messages of support have flooded into Inter from Interisti around the world, along with those who have worked with the legendary player over the years. The huge amount of affection people have for ‘Pupi’ is evident by the messages sent to him from former Inter players, coaches and staff.

Mario Balotelli told Mediaset: “I wish for Zanetti to return to the field as soon as possible, because he is a great man, as well as a great champion.”

Legendary coach Jose Mourinho told the press that he called his one-time captain when he found out about the injury to show his support: "I talked to Javier, he’s ready for everything and will come back, he'll fight for it."

Even rivals of Zanetti and Inter have sent messages to the player they have a huge respect for, including the ex-Juventus captain Alessandro Del Piero and the Roma legend Francesco Totti. Even the coaches of bitter rivals Juventus and Milan have shown their support for him; “I wish him, and Milito all the best, they won the treble and are champions of the highest class. I wish them both a speedy recovery and to see them back on the field soon.” Said Antonio Conte, while Massimilano Allegri told Sky Sports 24: “Zanetti? It is only appropriate to wish him the best because he has the strength to get back to the pitch. I’m very sad, he is a great professional. I wish him the best.”

Unfortunately, not all of Inter’s rivals have been as respectful to ‘il Capitano’ and during Milan’s match against Catania a section of the Rossoneri fans insulted the injured Nerazzurri captain by singing - “Javier Zanetti salta con noi” (Javier Zanetti jumps with us), this was intended as a play on the old Inter chant – “Chi non salta rossonero é!” (Who’s not jumping is Milanista!) AC Milan have since been fined 8000 Euros because of this and insults directed at officials in the same game.

Italian sports paper La Gazzetta dello Sport has reported that the Milan CEO Adriano Galliani personally phoned Zanetti to apologize for the disgraceful behavior and disrespect shown by some of his club’s fans, which I thought was very admirable, and I applaud Galliani for that courtesy.

Whether or not Zanetti ever does fully recover from this blow at the end of a disappointing and tough season remains to be seen, but one thing is certain for the Nerazzurri veteran – he will always hold a special place in the hearts of every fan of football around the world. As Ernesto Paolillo, the former CEO of Inter told TMW: “I know his fighting spirit and his character and I am sure he will come back to the pitch to end his career the way he deserves to. I have no doubt that he will end his career at Inter as a hero.”

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