Javier Zanetti: Play into your 40s

Inter Milan’s warhorse Javier Zanetti, 40, reveals his secrets to an everlasting career

Twenty years as a professional player. How have you managed it?  You can’t say ‘luck!’
It’s not luck, it’s just passion. Enthusiasm for the game has led me to higher results. The club and my team-mates are fundamental too, but everything starts from my head.

How is the right diet important?
It’s essential. I always try to eat well. Every day I have pasta with a bit of dressing, light sauce or maybe some drops of olive oil and Parmesan cheese. I’ll also maybe have some cured beef with lemon. I’m Argentinian, and so I can’t live without asado [barbecued] meat. I’m very lucky, because I have never had problems with fat.

More after the break

Do you do any special training?
The older I get, the more I work on my back muscles, which are crucial to the way I play. I do abdominal exercises and long stretching sessions every day, especially since the San Siro pitch became part-synthetic at the beginning of the season. I love strengthening my legs, even the day after games, but I’m not fond of upper body work. I just maintain my arms and pectorals.

Has your career been extended by improvements in sports science?
Absolutely. Twenty years ago every training session began with a four or five-mile run. Now everything involves the ball. Science is more advanced, and allows us to train and play at my peak.

Does it help that you have spent most of your career at Inter, working with the same fitness coaches?
Coaches change, but being in the same atmosphere is helpful. Everybody’s methods are similar and you get to know the medical staff better. From the manager to the masseurs and physiotherapists, all are first-class at Inter.

How long do you think you can carry on playing for?
Definitely another year. Then I’ll sit down with the club, gauge my physical and mental well-being, and we’ll decide from there.

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