x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Zanetti, Totti and Del Piero see through different eyes

Captains of Inter Milan, Roma and Juventus react to substitutions with a mixture of appreciation and petulance.

Four minutes can seem a long time in a football match, although it is probably best not to emphasise that too loudly within earshot of Francesco Totti, the Roma captain.

Totti's outburst at having been introduced as a substitute with barely 240 seconds remaining of Roma's defeat at Sampdoria nine days ago left his club, and his relationship with Claudio Ranieri, the coach, simmering ahead of Sunday's trip to Cesena, where tension became contagious.

Four minutes, though, was plenty of time for Javier Zanetti to be applauded on reaching his latest milestone as an Inter Milan player. When Zanetti was substituted four minutes before the final whistle, Inter were 4-1 up against Bologna.

The switch, made by Leonardo, was simply so the Inter captain, 37, could receive a standing ovation at San Siro for setting a new club record: the game was his 519th in Serie A for the Nerazzurri.

Zanetti performed with his usual energy and discipline for his 86 minutes on the right of midfield, and, as ever, left the field with his neat haircut unruffled and the appearance of a man who would happily take on another 90 minutes .

Totti, 34, got a full 90 minutes at Cesena, and would be reminded of what Ranieri had been obliged to repeat all of the previous week, that "matches can be decided with one act, very late on". Ranieri had to say so because of the gripes made by Totti about the fact that, in the 2-1 defeat at Sampdoria, he had been asked to enter the action so very late.

"So now the game starts," Totti said, loud enough so a nosey microphone could pick up the comment when he had come on at Samp. At Cesena, Roma scored the only goal of the game in the very last minute; for a grateful Ranieri, there was the double satisfaction that it came thanks largely to the efforts of two late substitutes.

After Marco Borriello hit the crossbar, Adriano reacted to force a save and in the subsequent melee Max Pellegrino diverted the ball past his own goalkeeper.

By then, a new controversy was waiting for Ranieri: Mirko Vucinic had reacted angrily to giving way for Adriano. Such protests are becoming a trademark at Roma. As club captain, Totti might wish to remind Vucinic that sort of behaviour can be bad for morale. It would be hard for him to do so, given his own display of petulance seven days earlier.

It was a big weekend for veterans like Zanetti, Totti and indeed Alessandro Del Piero, 36, the Juventus captain who galvanised a weakened line-up and scored the first goal in a 2-1 win over Bari that lifts Juve to fifth in the table, a point below Totti's Roma and two above Zanetti's Inter.

Zanetti, Totti and Del Piero are distinct sorts of leaders. They are emblems for their clubs, to be admired for their fidelity. Del Piero has been with Juve since 1993; Totti made his Roma debut 18 seasons ago. Zanetti joined Inter in the summer of 1995, fresh from his native Argentina.

All three men have endured frustrating periods, Del Piero with injuries and Juve's 2006 relegation, Zanetti over the 12 seasons before his Inter finally won a scudetto, Totti through the six seasons when Roma finished runners-up.

Zanetti has survived umpteen changes of coach. Totti, more confrontational and politically powerful within his club, has seen several sackings too, as has Del Piero, who is never happy as a substitute - which is often, these days - but conceals his ire better than Totti.

The Roma captain's relationship with Ranieri will endure more and ups and downs. Zanetti's understanding with Leonardo, Inter's new coach, has started well. He will have appreciated the fact Leonardo withdrew him four minutes early. It allowed the Interisti to applaud a very fine servant of the club.

 

sports@thenational.ae