Javier Zanetti enjoyed perhaps the pinnacle of his superb career as FC Internazionale Milano triumphed in Madrid, the captain savouring his "most important and beautiful victory".
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At the age of 36 and after 15 years at FC Internazionale Milano, Javier Zanetti has seen most things in football but victory in the UEFA Champions League final provided the defender with a brand new experience that he was determined to savour on Saturday night.
Zanetti may have made his 500th Serie A appearance this season and led Inter to yet another Scudetto – their fifth in succession – and the Coppa Italia, but European glory has long been highly coveted by the Nerazzurri and, appropriately, Zanetti's 700th Inter game ended with their captain collecting the European Champion Clubs' Cup following a 2-0 win against FC Bayern München. "It's the most important and beautiful victory," he told UEFA.com. "We all deserve it, and I'm proud to be the captain of this great Inter team."
It had been 45 years since Inter last ruled Europe – and 38 since their last final appearance – but their form in the knockout stages of this season's competition, particularly the wins against Chelsea FC and FC Barcelona, had prompted the feeling that their name might be on the trophy. Zanetti himself pointed to the former of those ties as the moment when José Mourinho's men began to believe. "Then we knew that this team could achieve a lot and reach the final. Tonight we deservedly won the title against strong opponents – and Bayern are strong."
Bayern dominated territory and possession but in Diego Milito, Inter had the game's decisive figure, the Argentina striker turning both his shooting opportunities into goal to take the trophy to Milan and leave his captain purring. "Milito deserves all this success; he's a great striker who arrived here a year ago with a lot of humility, and he has shown everyone his value," said Zanetti, who believes this long-awaited triumph could be just the start for Inter. "We will find the right motivation. There is still a lot to achieve in the future, and I hope we are well prepared to continue our winning streak."