x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Diego Milito's regal touch returns for Inter Milan

After a dire 2011, the Argentine forward has begun 2012 on the right foot in front of goal.

Diego Milito celebrates his second goal for Inter Milan in their 5-0 win over Parma.
Diego Milito celebrates his second goal for Inter Milan in their 5-0 win over Parma.

At the beginning of the Serie A campaign, Inter Milan said goodbye to two-thirds of the strike force that guided them to their most successful season in over 40 years.

Goran Pandev's departure to Napoli raised few eyebrows; Pandev had played his role in the treble of 2009/10 but it was not a principal part.

The loss of Samuel Eto'o seemed a bigger blow, though it was cushioned by the unusually high fee, over €21 million (Dh100.8m), paid by Anzhi Makhachkala, the Russian club, for a 30 year old.

Anyway, reasoned Inter fans, they still had the hero of Madrid, "Il Principe", (the Prince), Diego Milito, scorer of both goals in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich at the Bernabeu, scorer of the goal which won the Coppa Italia that year, scorer of the goal that put Inter ahead on the nervous last day of the campaign when they needed a win to clinch the league title.

So etched in the vivid history of Inter are Milito's goals that the scarcity of them since last September had become something of a mystery.

Rather cruelly, it had also turned into a joke, once listeners to the Italian radio show Catersport elected Milito the 2011 Bidone d'Oro - gold dustbin - a prize awarded to Serie A's biggest disappointment of the year.

Suffice to say, the Prince has begun 2012 rather more regally. His performance in the 5-0 thrashing of Parma had all the symptoms of a man rapidly regaining his lost confidence: a neat and alert near-post finish for one goal and a well-directed, if poorly marked, header for his second.

Milito is principally a finisher, but his fine pass to set up Giampaolo Pazzini's strike will have helped still the criticism that the trouble with the forward is that when he is not firing in goals, he contributes little else to Inter's collective.

He felt pleased with the subtlety and quality of his first goal, flicked in from a Ricky Alvarez cross, and insisted that, at 32, he is striker who has learnt how to overcome the ebbs and flows of fluctuations in form.

"All forwards go through lean spells from time to time," the Argentine told reporters, "the period when the ball just won't find its way into the net. You have to stay calm through those.

"I've not changed anything dramatically but I feel now I am playing well again, and so is the team."

This is a good time for Inter to have rediscovered their totemic centre-forward, with a Milan derby coming up.