Inter Milan announced last week that their captain Javier Zanetti, who has played for the Neroazzurri since 1995, will hang up his boots this summer to become a director for the club. However, the Argentinian’s history could have been very different than we know.
Before Zanetti moved to Milan, Real Madrid were interested in bringing him to the Santiago Bernabeu. The full-back had been one of the most outstanding players at Banfield, and in fact he had already made his debut with Argentina’s national team. It was in 1994, in a match against Chile.
In the summer of 1995, Los Blancos were eager to sign a right-back and they decided to make an offer for the young Argentinian player. However, Banfield ask them for almost six million euros. Madrid didn’t have the same economic strength back then and, concerned about the fact that Zanetti’s great form could be just something temporary, they decided to break off the negotiations. Thus, they finally signed Quique Sanchez Flores, whose transfer was quite cheaper.
Nevertheless, Zanetti had another chance to move to Europe. Inter were also eying him and took the risk of paying the six million euros Banfield requested. The Italians discovered the Argentinian by happenstance. They were eying Sebastian Rambert in a game between Banfield and Independiente Avellaneda and ended up delighted with Zanetti.
In fact, the first two signings of Massimo Moratti as Inter’s president were Rambert and Zanetti. Both were unveiled on the same day. Rambert was seen as the star, while Zanetti was expected to have a minor role. Nevertheless, Moratti confessed in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport that he was attacked for the full-back’s signing: “Everybody told me I had hired an unknown player that would only last a few months.”
Real Madrid realized their mistake a few years after, and they tried to sign him in 2001. However, at that time the love between Inter and Zanetti was already unbreakable. So strong that still today their relationship continues.