Wednesday, January 19

Zanetti: I could have signed for Real Madrid, but I was loyal to my Inter

Inter vice-president and former captain Javier Zanetti has broken down the reasons behind his decision to not join Real Madrid in the past, despite the two parties having come close to reaching an agreement.

Zanetti has travelled to Madrid with the Nerazzurri, who will face Real Madrid on Tuesday at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in the two teams’ final game of the Champions League group stage.

In an interview for MARCA, Zanetti discussed Real Madrid‘s interest in him, Carlo Ancelotti‘s qualities and his relationship with Los Blancos president Florentino Perez.

You represent a very big club. How would you compare Inter with Real Madrid?

I represent a club with great history and that is a great responsibility. Real Madrid are another highly prestigious club with great tradition in international tournaments. There has always been great respect between the two clubs.

Is your relationship with Florentino Perez good?

Yes, very good. He and [the director of institutional relations] Emilio Butragueno have always treated us very well. We maintain a relationship for years and I am happy every time I see him. Emilio is great.

You are a ‘one club man’ in European football, something rare nowadays. Why is that?

Having come from Argentina at the age of 21 and then played my entire career at Inter… I would never have dreamt of it. And yes, I hope this trend returns, but times have changed. There’s no problem with that.

Let’s go to tonight’s game. Are Real Madrid the favourites?

Yes, facing Real Madrid at home is always difficult because they know how to play these types of games. The good thing is that we have both qualified and we play without that pressure. Our team are doing well thanks to a great job from [Simone] Inzaghi and the guys. I think it will be an even match.

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Real Madrid fans may have in mind an Inter that are not so scary. What do you think?

No, no, no. Inter have their identity and have quality players who will also try to prove it in Madrid. Then, you can win or lose, but Inter’s identity is very clear.

What credit do you give to the new owners who built an Inter that aspire to win everything?

With the new owners we won Serie A, we reached the final of the Europa League, we returned to the knockout stages of the Champions League after 10 years… and stability is taking place, which is key.

You could have signed for Real Madrid years ago. Tell us more about that.

Yes, I was very close [to joining Real Madrid] and I already said that I felt honoured by the interest of such a club. It was at the time when Jorge Valdano was sports director. But everyone knows my story and they knew that Inter is my home. That is why I decided to stay here.

The reasons behind your decision?

I identified myself with Inter and the fact is that I was also playing for a club with a lot of history, although we had difficulties at the time. Things didn’t happen and I didn’t want to leave without making a mark. I was the captain and had a great responsibility. And I stayed.

Can you tell me how many times you have played at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu?

A few. I think only in the 2010 Champions League final, because once we played in the Champions League against Real Madrid we had to go to Seville because the Bernabeu was closed. After I retired, we did play a legends’ game. In addition, I also played there with Argentina.

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What do you remember from that night in 2010? An Inter side captained by you won the Champions League.

It was a dream night, fantastic, one of the best of my career, because it was recorded in the history of my club: to lift a Champions League trophy that Inter had not conquered for 45 years.

What do you think of Dani Carvajal? You were a specialist in that position.

A. He is a benchmark, a very balanced and consistent player. The proof is that all the coaches [Real Madrid have had] have trusted in him.

What’s the opinion about Carlo Ancelotti as a coach in Italy?

Carlo is highly respected for his entire career here and for the way he is. He is always a very calm man, with very clear concepts. In victory or defeat he always behaves the same. I have a lot of respect for him.

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