Argentine striker Diego Milito has recently decided to hang up his boots and call time on a glorious, goal-filled career. Milito is best known for his goalscoring exploits which helped Jose Mourinho’s Inter win a historic treble in 2009-10 (Champions League, Serie A, Coppa Italia), and leaves behind an impressive legacy.
The lethal finisher – nicknamed El Principe (The Prince) – started his career in his home country with Racing Club, making his debut in the 1999/2000 season, aged just 19. During his time at Racing Club he frequently faced his younger brother, Gabriel Milito, who played for Racing’s arch-rivals Independiente. Indeed, the pair’s mother once famously had to leave the stadium as she couldn’t bare to watch the fiercely competitive brothers be held apart by teammates and the referee during a particularly feisty Avellaneda (Racing Club v Independiente) derby. Over the course of his spell at Racing he helped the club become champions of Argentina and went on to score 34 goals before making his first move to Europe.
Milito landed in Europe at the beginning of 2004 where he joined Italian club Genoa, then in Italy’s second division. He was an instant success, boasting an impressive goal scoring record of 33 goals in 59 games, including 21 goals in the 2004-05 season, which helped the Italian club to finish on 76 points. This tally would have seen them promoted to the Serie A as champions, but the club were involved in a match-fixing scandal which saw them relegated to Italy’s Serie C/1 as punishment, a verdict which ultimately led to his departure. Milito’s next move would be to Spain, joining Real Zaragoza where he would line up alongside his brother, Gabriel.
His goalscoring form continued in Spain, and in his first year at Zaragoza he was the club’s top scorer, finishing the campaign with 16 goals. El Principe helped his club reach the Copa Del Rey final that year, scoring 4 goals in a 6-1 demolition of Spanish giants Real Madrid in the semi final. Anti-climatically, they went on to lose the final to Espanyol. The following season Milito was at it again, this time scoring 23 league goals, only 2 less than eventual Pichichi winner Ruud Van Nistlerooy, and the Argentine was made club captain the following season after the departure of his brother to Barcelona. However, it would ultimately be a disappointing season for Zaragoza as they were relegated to the Spanish second division.
Upon relegation, Milito was on the move again, and despite interest from some of European footballs big hitters, he wanted a return to former club Genoa. The prolific Argentinian continued where he left off, scoring on his debut against AC Milan and finishing the season with an impressive 24 goals in 31 games. Unfortunately, he once again fell just short of being crowned the league’s top scorer, as he was pipped to the Capocannonieri by Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Inter, the man he would later replace in Milan.
His second spell at Genoa was a short one -a solitary season, in fact- and he subsequently put pen to paper, signing for Inter to work under Jose Mourinho for €28 million. Milito, now 30 (hence the ‘late bloomer’ tag), had finally arrived at the big stage, and his hard-working attitude and incredible eye for goal made him a fans favourite at Inter. El Principe would go on to have an incredible first season at Inter, playing a big part in an unfancied, workmanlike Inter side – masterminded by Mr. Mourinho – that would go on to win a historic treble. The first trophy came after beating Roma 1 – 0 in the Coppa Italia final, compliments of the ever-reliable Argentine, and another Milito strike helped secure the Serie A title against Siena. However, it was his goalscoring exploits in the Champions League that really impressed, bagging both goals in the 2 – 0 victory over Bayern in the final, a performance which won him man-of-the-match and a series of rave reviews. Finally, his talents would gain the worldwide recognition they deserved, as after that incredible season he would go on to win a whole host of personal accolades:
UEFA Champions League Final 2010: UEFA Man of the Match
UEFA Club Forward of the Year: 2009–10
UEFA Club Footballer of the Year: 2009–10
Serie A Footballer of the Year: 2009–10
Serie A Foreign Footballer of the Year: 2009–10
FIFA FIFPro World XI Nominee: 2009, 2010
The following season was a frustrating, injury-plagued campaign for Milito, although he did help the club win the Fifa Club World Cup. The next year (2011-12) Milito was back and up to his usual mischief in front of goal, finishing the season with 24 goals, a tally earning him runner up for the Capocannonieri crown, again falling just short of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, now playing for city rivals AC Milan.
The 2012-13 started in what had become expected fashion for Milito, with him scoring vast amounts of goals. He ended the calendar year of 2012 as the top goalscorer in Italian football, netting a formidable 28 goals. Again injury would strike, this time a serious knee ailment which would require surgery and keep him sidelined for 6 months. The remainder of his time at Inter would be hampered by injury, barring the brief cameo appearance and odd goal. His love affair with Nerazzurri fans never wavered and he will always be fondly remembered, especially for his heroic performance in Madrid that secured the Champions League crown.
In 2014 it was confirmed that Milito would return to his homeland of Argentina and back to his old stomping ground, signing for the team he started his career with, Racing Club. The return to his boyhood club started in dream fashion with a goal on his debut, and despite joining a club that was facing relegation, within 6 months Milito would spearhead Racing towards being crowned champions of Argentina, and qualification to the Copa Libertadores, which would be enough convince him to continue his playing career for another season.
He ended his glittering career in 2016, scoring from the penalty spot in his final game, a perfect way to end a remarkable journey. He may not be the first name on everyone’s lips when discussing the best striker over the last decade, but if you ask fans of Racing, Inter, Genoa or Zaragoza they would no doubt put him right up there.
This piece was written by our new recruit Josh Bragg. Follow him on twitter here.