(REUTERS) - Inter Milan and Argentina fullback Javier Zanetti confirmed on Tuesday he will retire at the end of the season after making more than 800 appearances during 19 seasons with the Serie A club.
"I felt that the moment had arrived," Zanetti, who turns 41 in August and is widely upheld as a model professional, told Buenos Aires newspaper La Nacion in an interview. "Football has given me a lot and I've enjoyed it all."
Zanetti, who won 145 caps for his country despite being controversially left out of the 2006 and 2010 World Cup squads, suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon last April, the first serious injury of his career. He bounced back to make 10 Serie A appearances this season.
Inter fans were furious on Sunday when coach Walter Mazzarri kept him on the substitutes bench throughout the 1-0 defeat by AC Milan, denying him an appearance in what many anticipated would be his final derby.
"After the injury, I wanted to show that I could come back and be competitive again. I feel that I'm a complete person who has achieved what he set out to do," said Zanetti. "Retiring at 41 and still being in form is something you cannot put a price on. For me, this is the right time and it's very difficult to get that right."
Zanetti made his professional debut with modest Buenos Aires-based Talleres in 1992 then moved to Banfield, who were then in the first division, the following year where he spent two seasons before joining Inter in 1995.
He has made 613 Serie A appearances, a tally bettered only by former AC Milan defender Paolo Maldini. He played 105 times in the Champions League and his total number of Inter games is around the 850 mark.
He has won five Serie A titles, the Italian Cup four times, plus the Champions League, UEFA Cup and Club World Cup once each.