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Soccer: Zanetti to play on for Inter at 40

Argentine defender, club captain, extends contract by a year

Soccer: Zanetti to play on for Inter at 40

(By Paul Virgo) Rome, June 12 - Javier Zanetti's remarkable stint at Inter Milan is set to continue after the Serie A giants announced Wednesday that they have extended their captain's contract by a year, just two months before he turns 40. The former Argentina full back, who is currently recovering after he snapped an Achilles tendon in April, has played more matches for Inter than any one else, having notched over 800 appearances since joining the club in 1995. He has helped Inter win five Serie A titles and four Italian Cups, in addition to the 1998 UEFA CUP, when he scored in a 3-0 win over Lazio in the final, and the Champions League and Club World Cup in 2010. "First of all I'd like to thank the club for the faith they've shown in me," said Zanetti after the announcement. "We spoke at length about my injury and we decided to do another year. "They've again shown they believe in me and my passion for Inter. "I hope I can pay back their affection on the pitch". It is rare for professional footballers to keep playing until they are 40, especially if they are outfield players. It is a little more common for goalkeepers, who have a position that is less physically demanding. But despite Zanetti's age, he continues to show the energy of a teen in his performances. Before the injury, which is expected to sideline him for most of this year, he had played over 90% of the Serie A giants' games since arriving in Milan from Argentine side Banfield 18 years ago. He was also the player to have featured in more matches than any other squad member at that stage of last season. "I'd like to thank the many fans who have sent their love over the last few weeks, and they've done likewise with the team in the first few days of the season-ticket campaign, showing they'll be with us next season," added the player, an exemplary professional and gentleman both on and off the field. "I'm doing everything I can to come back fit and healthy, and to be ready for the coach and my team-mates". Zanetti can play at left or right back and has the technical ability to play in midfield too. He is also the Argentina's most-capped player, having made 145 international appearances. The player has not forgotten his tough childhood in Buenos Aires. Indeed, he has set up his own foundation, Fundacion PUPI, which runs an array of initiatives that give poor children access to food and education, and helps their families house and provide for themselves.

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