At 36, Massimo Donati has seen it, done it and bought the body-hugging t-shirt. The Hamilton playmaker may spend more time screening his own back four than attacking the opposition’s these days but he is in no doubt about the significance of the play-off final against Dundee United.
The veteran Italian midfielder may yet find himself moved to the back four if Greek central defender Georgios Sarris joins club captain Mikey Devlin on the sidelines but he will give his all in tonight’s first leg at Tannadice.
Donati won a championship medal in just over two seasons with Celtic and made over 300 appearances in Serie A for Atalanta, AC Milan, Parma, Torino, Sampdoria, Messina, Bari, Palermo and Hellas Verona.
However, he stressed that the head-to-head with Ray McKinnon’s side means as much to him as those previous highlights.
“These two matches are as big as anything I have played in,” said Donati. “The past is the past and I have played in some really big games in Italy and in the Champions League.
“But, for me now, these two games that are coming up with Hamilton are the biggest of my career. These games are so big and so important for me and for the guys here.”
Donati has two years remaining on his contract at the Superseal Stadium but, for the moment, he is focusing solely on helping Hamilton to retain their Premiership status.
“I just want to play well and win for this team,” he said. “I don’t think about the future and I don’t think about the past; I only think about the present.
“I have two years left here and I want to stay in the Premiership – and so do all the guys here at Hamilton. I don’t want to play in the Championship.
“This is a big game. It’s so important for both teams at this point of the season. If you don’t do well, you don’t get a second chance. It’s so important for me and for the team and for the whole Hamilton family. We will be ready.
“I am aware that people’s jobs are on the line. Playing next season in the Championship will be a lot different to the Premiership. But it’s the same for Dundee United as well.”
Dropping out of the top tier would not be a new experience for Donati but it is one he has no wish to be reacquainted with.
“I have been relegated twice before in my career with Bari and with Palermo,” he said. “It did not feel good.
“You work and you train for a year and, at the end of the season, it’s not nice to go down. It’s like you’ve run all year for nothing.
“But it’s not just a personal blow, it’s a blow to the team and the entire club. I know how painful relegation can be and I don’t want that to happen again. It’s a failure.
“It’s the same for every team everywhere – it changes a lot of things. But right now I am just thinking about these next two games. There is pressure because you don’t get another chance but we are concentrating on winning.”