As FC Internazionale Milano's quest to lift the UEFA Champions League for the first time nears its conclusion, three key members of their team – Javier Zanetti, Wesley Sneijder and Esteban Cambiasso – are exuding calm.
The trio met the media on the eve of the final, Inter captain Zanetti summing up the serene mood: excited but understated. "It's an absolutely unique sensation; the Champions League is a highly prestigious tournament which I've followed for so many years and always really wanted to win," said the 36-year-old, who has already skippered the Milanese giants to Serie A and Coppa Italia success this season. "This final comes at a time of great happiness for me; I've experienced some strong emotions this year but this is going to top the lot.
I have played a lot of finals but this one, for all it stands for, is a very special one. I hope we'll all be happy after the match because this team really deserves it."
Zanetti will make his 700th Inter appearance at the Santiago Bernabéu – of the 14 Nerazzurri players who appeared in their last European final, a 3-0 victory against S.S. Lazio in the 1997/98 UEFA Cup, only Zanetti and Ronaldo are still active – but was characteristically keen to downplay his remarkable longevity. "There are no secrets, just a lot of hard work," he said. "I trust in myself and my coaches and try to better myself in every training session in order to do a good job for Inter. That's my main concern."
Sneijder and Cambiasso are back on familiar ground having both had spells at Real Madrid CF, the latter swapping the Santiago Bernabéu for San Siro only last summer. "It's nice to be back," Sneijder said. "Today I saw some people I'd not seen for a year so that's nice. I expect a great final. When I left Madrid I didn't have a plan. I wasn't thinking of coming back for the Champions League final, but over the season we've been great.
We all fight together and we all win together; it's amazing to be part of this team."
Cambiasso also pointed to the unity that has developed among the Inter squad over the course of the campaign as a key contributor to their success, adding: "No team is at their best at the start of the season. New players come in and you're starting to get to know one another. Now we've been together a year and Inter have grown. At the start of the season I don't think anyone can say 'I expected to play this final'; that's impossible to think in August. You can hope to have a good season and play well. Luckily we've managed to get two trophies and in 24 hours we might get the treble and make history for our great club, although Bayern are in the same position."
While Zanetti insisted Bayern would hold few surprises for Inter – saying: "We've done our homework and know every little detail about our opponents" – Cambiasso acknowledges knowing what to expect will be only half the battle. "Both squads are at their peak; we've both won our leagues and had a very good season," he explained. "Bayern didn't start very well but they have finished on an unbelievable run, and we've been very consistent. Now we're on the last lap and we're going to show the same determination.
A final always starts at 50-50 and we want the match to be 100 for us – but Bayern will want the same."
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