International Soccer
Milito makes the most of his opportunity

Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - This time last year Diego Milito had just completed a move from Genoa, along with Thiago Motta, to Inter Milan for a fee in the range of $30 million.

Milito was a proven scorer in the Italian Serie A, having finished second in scoring behind Inter's Zlatan Ibrahimovic during the 2008-09 season, but the move did not receive a huge amount of attention around Europe with players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka rumored to be headed to Real Madrid.

Two months later, the move was an afterthought in Milan as Inter sent Ibrahimovic to Barcelona in exchange for Samuel Eto'o and over $50 million in cash.

As the season began, most of the attention centered on Eto'o and how quickly he would adjust to life in Serie A.

The Cameroon international scored in his debut against Bari, but tallied just two goals in his next 10 games, while Milito continued to score at a steady pace, notching five goals in his first seven games for Inter.

Eto'o finished the season with 12 goals in 32 league appearances, which is not bad for most strikers.

But after making such a highly-publicized move from Barcelona, where he scored 34 goals in the previous season for the Spanish giants, you can understand why Inter fans were less than impressed with his output.

A poor season from a player like Eto'o would have been the undoing of many clubs, especially since the mercurial Mario Balotelli and January signing Goran Pandev were the other options in attack for manager Jose Mourinho.

However, the presence of Milito was invaluable as he carried the scoring load for Inter with 22 goals in the league, while Eto'o finished a distant second on the team with his dozen tallies.

Much of Inter's success this season centered on a well-organized defense and effective counter-attack play, and Milito was there to finish off a large portion of those breaks, which were usually led by another important off- season acquisition, Wesley Sneijder.

Inter president Massimo Moratti spent plenty of money prior to the season on players like Eto'o, Sneijder and Milito in an effort to win Inter's first European championship since 1965, when Moratti's father, Angelo, was the architect of back-to-back championships.

And ironically enough, it was the 30-year-old Milito who led the charge in the final on Saturday, scoring both of Inter's goals to help Moratti finally realize his dream.

In fact it was Moratti himself who helped Milito capture a dream of his own when the president signed the striker last May, and Milito was quick to praise Moratti following the game.

"I'm very happy for Inter, because we really wanted to win this competition, and for the president who is the first person to deserve this trophy," Milito said.

Diego Milito's finishing ability was on display during a first-half goal.
It was obvious how much this past season has meant to the Argentine, who has spent time at a number of different clubs before ever really getting a chance to play on this kind of stage.

Milito began his career in Argentina with Racing Avellaneda before moving to Italy to play with then Serie B side Genoa. He transferred to Real Zaragoza in Spain before returning to Genoa for a year and a half until finally joining the four-time defending Serie A champions.

Inter was able to capture a fifth straight crown on the last day of the season as Milito provided the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Siena, while he helped Inter capture its first trophy of the season 10 days earlier by scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Roma in the final of the Coppa Italia.

So it was only fitting on Saturday that Milito's name was the only one on the scoresheet as Inter completed a historic treble with a 2-0 win over Bayern Munich.

His fantastic finishing ability was on display during a first-half goal as he first flicked a header on to Sneijder before dashing past the Bayern defense and calmly beating goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt with a well-placed chip.

The second goal was a great individual effort that sealed the win as he took the ball on the left and beat defender Daniel van Buyten before slotting his shot perfectly inside the far post.

Saturday's performance should certainly serve notice to Argentina head coach Diego Maradona, who has a wealth of talent in attack but has to seriously consider finding a spot on the field for a player of Milito's quality.

With names like Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez all on Argentina's roster, Milito is not expected to earn a starting role, but it is hard to bet against him not making the most of any chance that he gets.



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Contact Tim Keeble at tkeeble@sportsnetwork.com
Contact Brian Westfall at bwestfall@sportsnetwork.com

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