50 - Ashley Young - Aston Villa, Premier League - Score: 1109
49 - Javier Zanetti - Internazionale, Serie A - Score: 1104
Inter Milan’s Argentinian right-back Javier Zanetti was born in Buenos Aires in 1973, and early on he developed his tireless work ethic, combining scholastic and working commitments, as well as helping his bricklayer father, without neglecting his passion for football.
A young Zanetti began playing for Talleres de Remedios de Escalada in the Argentinian third division and then Banfield in the first division before moving to Italy's Inter Milan in 1995.
Interestingly, he was Massimo Moratti's first ever purchase at the Nerazzurri, and what a purchase he has turned out to be. Well-liked throughout football and fan circles, Zanetti was originally nicknamed ‘El Tractor’ due to his exceptional strength and resilience, but he is now known as ‘Il Capitano’, as a term of great respect and affection from Inter fans.
Zanetti's qualities have made him a revered footballer all around the world. He is sometimes criticised for being too softly spoken on the pitch, but he makes up for this by leading through actions and by example, being one of Inter's most consistent, reliable and hard-working players. As such, he was rewarded with the club captaincy, taking over from Giuseppe Bergomi, the legendary defender.
He is currently one of the longest serving Inter players, having stayed at Inter for 13 years. Inter fans consider him to be one of the greatest players to have ever worn the colours of the Nerazzurri. During his time with the club, Il Capitano has won 3 cup competitions, the UEFA Cup in 1998, a final which he considers his proudest moment in an Inter shirt, the 2005 Italian Cup, and the 2005 Italian Super Cup.
Zanetti has the incredible achievement of leading Inter to three Scudetto wins in a row over the last three seasons, demonstrating that his leadership skills have improved with time, in the same way as his play seems to get better with age, and at 35-years-old this veteran of two World Cups is showing no sign that he is slowing down.
This year Zanetti won his third Scudetto title in a row, impressing throughout the season and displaying incredible consistency in Serie A, Champions League and Coppa Italia action. He led Inter to the final of the Coppa Italia earlier this year, before losing to Roma. The captain had his revenge however, winning the Italian Super Cup against the Giallorossi in August.
As far as his Champions League adventures go, Zanetti and Inter were knocked out in the second round of the competition last season, but have now qualified for the same stage of the competition this campaign, with a double header versus Manchester United to follow in February.
Zanetti is a very disciplined and fair player and as of September 2008, the player has not been sent off in more than nine years. The last time he was sent off was on February 17, 1999 in a Coppa Italia match against Parma.
On the international stage Zanetti continues to shine, playing in various matches for his country this year, with varied success, but always shining on an individual level. For Argentina, he has been capped 128 times, scoring five goals in the process. In March 2004, Pele named Zanetti as one of the top 125 greatest living footballers, but he makes our top 50 list this year.
The Beneamata captain achieved yet another impressive milestone this year, endearing him further to the Inter fans and ingraining his name in the club's history after bringing his European match tally to 117 with the Nerazzurri, equaling 'Lo Zio' Bergomi at the top of Inter's European appearance list. This was done only three weeks ago in Inter Milan’s final game of the group stage, adding yet another reason for the dedicated and deserving Interista to make this list.
Team Prizes In 2008:
2007/2008 Serie A title
2008 Italian Super Cup
Individual Accolades In 2008:
Equalled European Appearance record for Inter
Peter Pedroncelli, Goal.com