Diego Milito shines at the San Siro

MILAN — This time it was a different Argentine claiming the spotlight in Europe.

By (AP)

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Published: Wed 21 Apr 2010, 1:07 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 3:54 AM

While the pre-game hype was focused on Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, it was Inter Milan’s Diego Milito who had the performance to remember in a 3-1 first-leg victory for the Italian club in the Champions League semifinals.

Milito set up two scores and found the target himself before exiting to a standing ovation at the San Siro on Tuesday.

A performance like this was exactly what Inter president Massimo Moratti had in mind when he paid ¤18 million ($24 million) — with a few other players thrown in for good measure — to Genoa in the offseason for Milito’s services.

Milito’s night didn’t start off so lucky. He was flagged for a disputed offside call in the 10th minute, having received the ball all alone behind the defense, then missed two shots from close range — but sharp angles.

A goal down, Milito found Sneijder all alone with a pass inside the area for Inter’s opening score on the half-hour mark, then provided the cross for Maicon’s go-ahead goal in the 48th.

Sneijder returned the favor by heading the ball toward Milito, who in turn headed it in in the 61st.

Milito also drew a foul from Carles Puyol that will prevent the Barcelona captain from playing the second leg.

Milito has 19 goals in the Serie A this season — trailing only Udinese forward Antonio Di Natale’s 24 — and all four of his goals in Europe have come at key times.

The 30-year-old notched his first career Champions League goal in the group phase at Dynamo Kiev, equalizing in the 86th minute and spurring Inter on to a 2-1 away win. He also opened the scoring in the first knockout round against Chelsea and his was the only goal in a 1-0 win over CSKA Moscow in the opening leg of the quarterfinals.

It’s also been a special season for Milito off the field, with his wide Sofia giving birth to a girl, Agustina, last month — the couple’s second child.

Nicknamed “il principe” — the prince — Milito has left a scoring trail wherever he’s gone.

He began his professional career at home in Argentina, scoring 34 goals over four seasons with Racing Avellaneda, the moved to Italy and scored 33 over a season and a half with Genoa in Serie B before transferring to Real Zaragoza in Spain and notching 53 over three seasons in the Spanish league.

On one night with Zaragoza, Milito scored four against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey. Milito played with his younger brother, Gabriel, for two seasons at Zaragoza, and Gabriel is now with Barcelona — although he never left the bench on Tuesday.

Milito rejoined Genoa for last season and produced his biggest single-season output with 24 goals — one off Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Serie A-best 25.

Ibrahimovic, of course, moved to Barcelona for this season, and Milito must now be on everyone else’s wishlist.

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