your vast experience and international record, it must have hurt being
left out of the squad for the FIFA World Cup™ in Germany...
It left a bitter taste all right, especially as I'd been involved all
the way through. I'd played in the qualifiers under (Marcelo) Bielsa
and (Jose) Pekerman, as well as the friendlies and the Confederations
Cup. I don't know what happened in those final couple of months for me
to be dropped, nobody ever gave me a straight answer. Moreover, when I
was with the squad, I was being told I was an important part of the
team and a standard-bearer. I was led to believe I'd be playing a key
role at the World Cup. Anyway, these things happen in football. Right
now, I'm just enjoying the moment.
What was it like experiencing Germany 2006 from the outside?
It was a strange sensation because I'd love to have been there. That
said, I encouraged my team-mates as I really wanted Argentina to do
well, and many of them are also good friends. I was bitterly
disappointed when we were knocked out.
Was your recall all the sweeter after what you went through?
Yes, but I never felt I was out of the national-team picture. On the
contrary, I continued to feel like an international player. I knew if
I continued to play well for my club that I'd get another opportunity.
Football always gives you a chance to set the record straight. Things
go full circle and end up the way they should be.
You have played in some very good Argentina sides in your career, yet
none of them have ever won a title. In fact, the last time the senior
team won a major championship was at the 1993 Copa America...
(Interrupts) Yes, unfortunately we haven't been able to crown some of
those great performances with a major title. Now, we have another
chances at the Copa America. Let's hope this is the one.
Can you think of any reason why major honours have eluded the team?
I think it's just circumstances. With (Daniel) Passarella, we came
close to reaching the last four at France 98 before losing out to the
Netherlands. With Bielsa we were very impressive in the qualifiers and
friendlies prior to Korea/Japan 2002, but at the finals we suffered
the cruel and undeserving fate of being knocked out in the first
round. If we'd beaten Sweden 5-1 [as opposed to drawing 1-1 in our
final group game], it wouldn't have been an injustice. But these
things happen, and you just have to learn from them. Hopefully, this
Copa America will provide us with the title we're looking for.
With Hernan Crespo, Juan Veron, Roberto Ayala and yourself going to
Venezuela, would you agree this Copa America will be one of the last
chances for this generation of players to win a major title?
Yes, we've come a long way together, and we've been on the cusp of
glory many times. Never having taken that final step, every new
tournament represents a new challenge, and this one will be no
Do the youngest squad members find it difficult to fit in with the
more experienced members of the group?
No, not at all. As a group we all get along fantastically well as the
youngsters are very intelligent and good listeners. With every passing
game, they are more and more prepared as they know what to expect and
give their all to achieve our goals. I know there has been lots of
conjecture about problems within the squad. In my 12 years with the
team, I've heard it all: that we were fighting among ourselves; that
the foreign-based players didn't want to come to certain games because
of all the travelling involved, but they were all lies. We'd kill for
the chance to play, and would take the boat or even walk if we had to!
No other feeling comes close to that of representing your national
Of the youngsters in the squad, would you say Lionel Messi has had
the biggest impact?
He's a player or immense quality, although he's still young and has
plenty of room for improvement. What he's achieved thus far makes us
believe we're witnessing the emergence of a genuine great, and he'll
bring us lots of joy in the years ahead.
Can you tell us a bit about your club football in Italy. How have
you managed to remain a key player for so many years at a team like
It hasn't been easy, especially as we've had to endure some difficult
moments. Inter are a huge club and so always obliged to win.
Fortunately, we've been able to deliver titles in the last three
seasons. Once and for all, the truth has been told about what was
happening in Italian football, and we [Inter] were the ones who were
really affected. I'm not saying that was the only reason we hadn't
been winning titles before, but it was a factor in our not winning
three or four championships. Now, things are more transparent, and
we've achieved the goals we'd set ourselves.
Does it annoy you that some people have tried to belittle your recent
title triumphs given the current state of affairs in Italian football?
No, it doesn't bother me because we know the sections of the media who
are saying that are on the side of those who were wrong. For anyone
seeking affirmation of how well we've done, they need only look at all
the records we've set in this season's league championship.
As an Inter man, how did you take AC Milan's triumph in this year's
UEFA Champions League?
The old enemy eh! There is a lot of passion when it comes to our
rivalry; it's on a par with Boca-River in Argentina. Luckily, our
winning the Serie A title in the manner in which we did meant we were
still euphoric despite their Champions League win.
But how well the other team fares is still important in Milan?
Of course, it pained us Inter fans to see them win the Champions
League, but that doesn't change the fact that we were delighted with
what we achieved.
Could you imagine yourself playing for a European side other than
Inter? No, I can't see that. I've only played for them in Europe, and
they've always been great to me. I feel at home there. I realise that
I'm at one of the world's top clubs and that it's not easy to stay
A couple of seasons back Juan Veron took a pay cut to return to
Argentina to try to get back into the national team. Although he had a
lot to lose he accepted the challenge, won a domestic title and is now
back in the Argentina squad. Could you see yourself following in his
footsteps in the future?
I know there will always be doors open to me in my country, and it
would certainly be a nice challenge. I can easily understand why Seba
made the move, as he's Estudiantes to the core, lives there and has
great affection for the club. I'm delighted with what he and others
who I've played with, like (Diego) Simeone and (Nelson) Vivas, have
So you would consider a return? Any club in particular...
Yes, I'd like to return [one day]. I'm a fan of Independiente, so I'd
naturally like to wear their colours, and I also like Banfield, who
gave me a lot as a young player. Either would be nice.
Finally, have you given any thought to what you might do when you
eventually hang up your boots?
Well, I won't be going into coaching. I would like to dedicate myself
to my children's charity [ Fundación Pupi] and set up something
similar with Inter. I've already broached the subject with the club
president, and he really likes the idea. AC Milan have a similar
foundation, but as yet Inter don't. I'd like to set that up and devote
my time to that.