Diego Milito: The Prince of Milano
Since signing for Inter in the summer of 2009 from Genoa, Milito has proven beyond doubt that he really is Nerazzurri royalty. With his professional approach to the game, he is almost guaranteed to produce the goods when called upon in big matches.
During the first half of last Saturday's Derby d'Italia there was mention of the fact that Milito had never scored against Juventus while wearing an Inter shirt. This was a stat that wasn't to last much longer as he produced two out of Inter's three goals to secure another historic win for La Beneamata. This brace also brought his strike tally for the calendar year up to 27 goals, equalling that of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. What makes this record even more spectacular is when you realise that, in Europe, this tally is only bettered by Cristiano Ronaldo on 37 goals and Lionel Messi on 46 - and, of course, these two are arguably two of the greatest players ever in the history of the game.
At the end of the incredible 2009-10 season, Milito's world-class ability was recognised with four major awards from UEFA: Club forward of the year, club footballer of the year, Serie A footballer of the year and the Serie A foreign footballer of the year, as well as claiming the man of the match award for his outstanding performance in the 2010 Champions League final.
After a disappointing start to the 2011-12 season, Milito was also awarded the 2011 Bidone d'Oro (Golden Bin) award after amassing the most votes in Rai Radio 2 show Catersport for its annual poll of the worst player of the year in Serie A. To be honest, I found this very insulting to the Argentinean, and the Inter frontman answered his critics by scoring an incredible 20 goals in the second half of the season.
In his time at Inter he has scored an impressive six braces, two hat-tricks and even a poker - four goals in one match - and since signing in 2009 he has brought a fantastic return of 70 goals and 21 assists in just 140 appearances across all domestic competitions. If averaging a goal every two games for Inter were not impressive enough, the stats for his entire professional career are comparable - he has accumulated a total of 228 goals and 37 assists in 511 appearances since he started his career with the Argentinean side Racing Club in 1999.
Despite approaching the end of his playing career, the 33-year-old is still a major force in the Inter squad. He spearheads Stramaccioni's formations and is currently riding high in the Serie A charts with seven goals and three assists in 11 appearances, not to mention the two assists he's contributed after coming off the bench during Europa league games.
His long-term replacement in the Inter squad is likely to be the promising youngster Samuele Longo, but as he is out on loan at Espanyol this season, and Milito is Inter's only true out-and-out striker, I feel that it will be necessary for the Nerazzurri to look at purchasing another striker when the transfer window reopens in January.
Previously I have mentioned how I would love to see Giuseppe Rossi at Inter ready to play next season once he's recovered from his injury, but also I feel another addition up front is needed in case Milito's form slumps. A possible acquisition for Inter could be Atletico Bilbao's 'want-away' forward Fernando Llorente, who is an incredible goalscoring talent. If reports are to be believed, the Nerazzurri might be able to secure his signature for as little as €6 million.
Milito will always hold a special place in Interisti hearts as the player who returned European glory to Inter after a long 45-year absence, and he still has plenty of time to add to his professional career stats as his contract runs until 2014.
Thanks to the guys at WhoScored.com for helping me with the stats.