Was he the best striker in the world in 2010? Honestly, it’s tough to argue a case for anyone else.
The fact that his name was nowhere near the Ballon d’Or rankings is one of the great mysteries of the past decade. Or crimes, whichever way you look at it. Me personally, I’m going with crimes.
During the 2009/10 campaign, Didier Drogba was the only player (other than the obvious two) to score more goals than Diego Milito – but to even try and suggest that the Ivorian was a better striker at the time is an argument nobody can win.
Upon moving to Inter at the beginning of that season, Milito had already bagged 158 goals in his 367 career outings, but had just two top flight titles in Argentina to show for his troubles.
Granted the chance to prove his worth at the biggest club he’d ever played for, and under the watchful eye of Jose Mourinho, the season he would go on to produce would be both iconic and, in many ways, perfect.
The Portuguese’s system of counterattacking football with Esteban Cambiasso and Wesley Sneijder feeding Milito was so well drilled it rarely ever faltered. Signing a striker who was both quick in transition and a lethal finisher to fit into this side was key to Mourinho’s plans. And in Milito, he had that man.
Still, the level of performances he would produce on a weekly basis were still far above the capabilities many expected of him. But more crucially, was his timing. Drogba was always praised for his ability in big games, but Milito rewrote the definition of ‘big game player’.
You will struggle to find anyone, in any season, to have such a massive say on all the matches that mattered most. Inter were arguably the best Italian side since Arrigo Sacchi’s late 80s AC Milan team, but they were indebted to the Argentine for so much of that success.
Let’s start with Serie A. Firstly, Milito’s 22 goals and four assists in 35 matches is worth praising, but once again, it’s the timing of his goals and the occasions he scored them that define both his mentality on the pitch, as well as his superiority above all the other strikers in the world at the time.
He netted in both Milan derbies, of course, and it was his touch that secured Inter the league title when he netted the winner against Siena on the final day of the season – claiming the Scudetto ahead of Claudio Ranieri’s AS Roma.
What about the Coppa Italia then? Expecting anything other than a Milito show here would be wholly wrong of you. Naturally, he scored the only goal in the final win over Roma, as well as bagging another in the semi-final. Big game player? We’re not even close yet.
After all, this Inter side won the treble that season. Would they have even come close without their star man up front? The most complete centre forward in world football? Not a chance. Yes, Samuel Eto’o was in the side, but his role in a wider berth was crucial to allowing Milito to flourish as well as get support when needed – which he rarely did.
During the group stages of the Champions League, Inter were on the brink of an early exit. Away at Dynamo Kyiv and trailing with just five minutes left, Milito….yeah, you know what happens next.
The forward bagged the equaliser then set up Sneijder for the winner in the dying seconds. Just another day at the office. Not content with his European goals at this point, he scored in every knockout round following, against CSKA Moscow, Chelsea and Barcelona.
He was untouchable. But simply stating his goals is no just admiration for his ability. In terms of a complete striker, Milito had no chinks in his armour. His hold up play was technically astute and remarkably elegant, his movement both on and off the ball was second to none, and his range of goals knew no bounds. Whether it was volleys, header, left or right, he was a player at the very peak of his powers.
So when the Champions League final at the Santiago Bernabéu came round, even if the Nerazzurri were to lose at the final hurdle, not one person could have begrudged Milito for his involvement building up to that point.
But Milito was to have his ultimate clutch moment. Scoring in cup finals and scoring the goals to clinch league titles wasn’t enough. Against formidable opponents in Bayern Munich, Milito was, once again, a class above.
His two goals were the only two goals of the game, but each were fabulous in their own way. Firstly his cushioned header for Sneijder in the build up to his first goal was flawless, and then his second individual effort demonstrated the kind of footwork rarely ever seen from a centre forward. He tormented the backline all game, and was the worthy winner of the man-of-the-match award.
Barring the obvious pair, there was no better player in the world than Diego Milito that season.
His goals, work rate, tactical sharpness and outstanding knack of turning up for the biggest matches was unmatched. It’s no point even discussing his career after that. He’d completed football. Just a shame Argentina and France Football didn’t see likewise. But, at least he won a shedload of the individual wards.