The 31-year-old Diego Milito is like wine: he gets better with age. At a time when some of his peers are struggling to find their feet, looking on from the bench or leaving big clubs for also-rans, the Argentine international striker is busy winning trebles and etching his name in the history book.
The transition from an ambitious but unsuccessful club to a heavyweight is never easy, and when Milito switched from Genoa to Inter last summer just before his 30th birthday some did raise doubts. Granted, Milito had scored goals in Spain and Italy. Granted, he had finished second in the Capocannoniere charts behind Zlatan Ibrahomovic. But could he do it for his first ever big club?
Yes, he could and he did. 30 goals in all competitions were enough to make him arguably the best striker in Europe in 2009-10. While David Villa remains the world's best pure goalscorer, Milito is a close second; as he showed last season, he can score both against the smaller teams and against the bigger ones.
Deployed as the main striker by then Inter coach Jose Mourinho in a 4-2-1-3 (or 4-2-3-1) formation, Milito, who finished 25th in the Goal.com 50 in 2008-09, flourished with Wesley Sneijder just behind him and Goran Pandev and Samuel Eto'o alongside him. 'Il Principe' banged in goals right, left and centre, netting a total of 22 in 33 starts in Serie A, providing four assists in the process.
Milito might not have notched up a hat-trick but he scored important goals alright - in the Milan derby in August he scored one and gave two assists in a 4-0 victory and again in January found the target against the Rossoneri in a 2-0 win. Against Siena in mid-May it was again the former Real Zaragoza forward who made the difference with the only goal of the match.
Moment of the Season
Scored twice against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final in May 2010
Simultaneously, Milito banged in the goals in the Champions League too. This was the first time in his career that Milito was featuring in Europe's top-tier club competition but he looked like a veteran, scoring on six separate occasions.
What's more, the Bernal-born man was on target against the champions of England (Chelsea), Spain (Barcelona) and Germany (Bayern Munich).
'Il Principe' also got the distinction of scoring in each of the knockout ties in the Champions League and it was only befitting for both Inter and Milito that he found the Bayern net twice in the final at the Santiago Bernabeu, leading Inter to a 2-0 victory and their first European conquest in 45 years. Milito also netted the only goal in the final of the Coppa Italia against Roma in early May, playing an indispensable role in the Nerazzurri's historic treble triumph in 2009-10.
Yet for all his goalscoring prowess and clinical ability, Milito was never really given the chance by Diego Armando Maradona at the World Cup. Of course, you could understand why El Diego preferred Gonzalo Higuain - the Real Madrid man is 22, is more versatile, can play out wide and then drift inside from there and has also progressed massively in the last two years - but Milito has proven himself in Europe while the former River Plate striker has largely been a flop. One wonders how Milito could have affected the game against Germany in the quarter-finals had he started.
Which also leads one to ponder whether Milito would have had a better chance of winning the FIFA Ballon d'Or had he been given more chances in South Africa. Since the Albiceleste didn't reach the semis and Milito was virtually anonymous at the World Cup, perhaps the 31-year-old's chance of winning the most prestigious individual award in football has been thrown out of the window and into the river beyond.