Zanetti: Man United wanted me, but my love for Inter always tipped the scales

Javier Zanetti has told FourFourTwo that Manchester United were among several ‘big clubs’ that he could have signed for, but his ties to Inter Milan were too strong.

The Argentine spent nearly 20 years in a Nerazzurri shirt after arriving in 1995, lifting the Champions League trophy on his 700th Inter appearance in 2010.

It proved a case of perseverance finally paying off for the full-back, who waited three years to celebrate his first title – the 1998 UEFA Cup – and more than a decade to win Serie A, in 2005/06, which he then bagged on four more occasions.

Few would have blamed Zanetti for wanting to seek pastures new after Inter failed to win any silverware in six seasons from 1998/99 to 2003/04, with Man United, Barcelona and Real Madrid among the big-hitters hoping to secure his signature.

However, the South American reveals that he could never quite bring himself to leave the San Siro, as he was confident that Inter’s day in the sun would come.

Portraits: Mattia Zoppellaro

Speaking exclusively in the July 2017 issue of FourFourTwo, Zanetti admits: “There were some firm rumours of Manchester United wanting to sign me during the late '90s. I once saw Alex Ferguson in an airport while I was in England with my wife.

I once saw Alex Ferguson in an airport while I was in England with my wife. We talked a bit about football, but I was always centered in my idea of staying with Inter, even in those complicated years

We talked a bit about football, but I was always centered in my idea of staying with Inter, even in those complicated years, and it would have been difficult for me to go under any circumstances. It wasn’t just Manchester United, there were other big clubs as well, but my love for Inter always tipped the scales.

“I was confident that their moment would eventually come. I would speak about it with president [Massimo] Moratti and my family.

Being captain, I wanted to leave an important mark on the club. Yes there were hard times, but the management showed trust in the squad being built and we worked together to achieve the goals we wanted for so long. When you sign for Inter, the club makes you think that you are part of a family, like a new son.”

NOW READ THIS

Read the full interview with Javier Zanetti in July 2017 issue of FourFourTwo, which is guest-edited by Barcelona star Lionel Messi and features the new boss discussing a selection of his career highlights. Also this month, we look back at the La Masia academy team that he played in – featuring Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique – and profile the other members of the 500-goal club, which Leo joined during the week that he edited the magazine. Plus, we talk Liverpool, La Decima and motorbikes with the recently-retired Xabi Alonso, visit Argentina on its 'weekend of derbies', hear how Ralf Rangnick has helped to lead RB Leipzig towards the top of the Bundesliga, and learn what Brexit will mean for football. Order it now, and then subscribe!