Zanetti to play 700th match for Inter
For Inter Milan captain Javier Zanetti - who has been left out of Argentina's World Cup squad - Saturday's Champions League final against Bayern Munich is undoubtedly the pinnacle of his season.
The final will mark Zanetti's 700th match in all competitions for Inter.
"It's incredible, a sign of destiny which I hope brings us good luck," Zanetti said. "I've run thousands of kilometers to reach this point and it's quite emotional."
The final will also be Zanetti's 55th game this season. Another similar season would put him in striking distance of retired defender Giuseppe Bergomi's all-time club record of 758 appearances.
Zanetti is 36, although Inter president Massimo Moratti said he plays like a 27-year-old, and hopes he puts off retirement for another five seasons.
"I think he's worthy of the Golden Ball, and maybe by winning the Champions League the judges will realise the same thing," Moratti said.
Having joined Inter 15 years ago, Zanetti has never been sent off in his 699 games, played mostly at left back and occasionally in midfield, where he's expected to line up against Bayern.
Still, Argentina coach Diego Maradona had no place for Zanetti when he named his final 23-man World Cup squad on Wednesday.
Also missing from Argentina's squad was Zanetti's likely midfield partner on Saturday, Esteban Cambiasso.
Since transferring from Real Madrid in 2004, Cambiasso has become a fixture in the centre of Inter's line-up, sometimes even filling in at center back in emergency situations. Without the World Cup to look forward to, the final will also mark a crowning point in his career.
"I first set foot in the Bernabeu in 1996 with Real's youth team and ever since I made the move from Argentina I've dreamed of playing a game like this one, and that dream began in that stadium," Cambiasso said.
Explosive forward Mario Balotelli is another high-profile player ignored by his national team, with Italy coach Marcello Lippi saying the 18-year-old isn't mature enough.
The rest of Inter's line-up is filled with national team stalwarts: center back Lucio is the Brazil captain and goalkeeper Julio Cesar and right back Maicon also start for Brazil; playmaker Wesley Sneijder directs the Netherlands attack, Samuel Eto'o stars for Cameroon, which has qualified for the World Cup again and forward Diego Milito has been included in Argentina's squad.
Inter usually uses a line-up with 11 foreign players and nobody in the squad has been selected for Italy's team. The only significant options for Lippi were reserve defender Marco Materazzi, who at 36 is not in top form anymore, and defender Davide Santon, who is injured.
Zanetti is neither out of form nor injured, and he intends to show that on Saturday.