Inter Treble Hero Diego Milito: “That Season Was A Year-Long Struggle, We Almost Lost The Serie A Title”

Inter Treble Hero Diego Milito: “That Season Was A Year-Long Struggle, We Almost Lost The Serie A Title”
May 16, 2020 19:30
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Former Inter forward Diego Milito discussed the Treble winning campaign in an interview in today’s print edition of the Italian magazine Sportweek, produced by Gazzetta dello Sport.

First, he spoke about his arrival in Milan that summer.

“I don’t remember the day, I can say that I knew Milan well because I often went there to visit my compatriots who would become teammates and who were already friends, Zanetti, Cambiasso and Samuel.

“That summer, before going back to Argentina for the holidays, I stopped in the city to look for a place to live, so as to gain time and then concentrate only on football. I told my father that I was happy to think that, in a few months’ time, I too would be in the Champions League. But at that moment I didn’t even imagine that I would make it to the finals, and that I would see for it myself.”

He moved onto talking about his first meeting at Inter.

“The entire executive staff. President Massimo Moratti, Marco Branca, Lele Oriali. Moratti shook my hand and, with a big smile, just said, welcome. In my five years at Inter he behaved like a father. To everyone, not just me. That’s why I always say that my greatest joy, on the evening in Madrid, when I won the Champions League, was to see happiness in his eyes.”

Milito touched on his meeting with Jose Mourinho.

“He had already called me on the phone to tell me about the squad, the system. Then he asked me if I wanted the number 22 shirt. It was the one I wore at Genoa. I said, coach, if it’s free, I’ll gladly take it.

“He said, actually it’s Orlandoni’s, the third goalkeepers. But don’t worry, I’ll talk to him. Orlandoni was great, he was fundamental in our victories, always a positive attitude, he kept the squad’s morale up.”

He discussed his compatriot and former teammate Javier Zanetti.

“Extraordinary. An example of attachment to work. I reflected on myself in him, we seem to be the same in everything. A real captain. I remember the trip back by train after Fiorentina – Inter 2-2. Koldrup, a defender, had scored almost at the end and Roma had overtaken us in the standings.

“Zanetti passed between us, we were sitting sad with our heads down, and he was full of energy, we’ll win the Scudetto, he repeated. We’ll win the Scudetto, he said. We’ll win it! And then the Roma-Samp  we watched at home.

“If Roma had won, they would have had the title in their pocket. We watched them sitting on the couch, I almost lay down with Agustina, born a month earlier, lying on my chest. My wife passed by, do you want to give the baby to me? No, leave her here. I kept her the whole game, it ended 1-2.”

The Argentine moved on to talking about Esteban Cambiasso.

“He is the smartest tactical player I’ve ever played with. He was a coach on the field, he saw the game before the others. He knew his strengths and weaknesses, and that makes a great footballer.

“He knew he wasn’t fast, he knew he was in trouble on the open pitch and that’s why he always kept the team tight. In training camp, we were in a room together.

“We’d watch TV all the time, Argentine films, then I’d fall asleep a little earlier. With him and Zanetti we’d go and drink mate in Samuel’s room because he was the one who prepared it. Pandev slept in Pandev’s room, who complained that we didn’t let him rest.”

Milito then discussed Walter Samuel.

“One of the best people I met off the pitch, endowed with a special goodness. But on the pitch, he transformed, tough, gritty, evil. How many times I played against him, in Argentina or in training, at Inter and on the national team. They were right to call him the Wall, tactically formidable, for him it was a matter of honor not to concede.”

The former Nerazzurri forward touched on how the team were more than just teammates and had great respect for each other.

“No, we used to go out to dinner together. Of course, it was easier to hang out with other married people like myself than with Balotelli, for example. He was very young, he had different routines.

“We’d go to restaurants, he’d go to clubs. But we were really a formidable and united squad, I remember the barbecues at Pinetina at the end of training, all together, including the Italians and Eto’o, eating and laughing in the evening.”

He spoke about former Inter striker Mario Balotelli.

“A little boy who made a lot of mistakes because of his age. Materazzi talked to him a lot. Everyone talked to him a lot. Me too, to advise him, help him.”

Milito moved onto talking about the Brazilians in that Inter squad, Julio Cesar, Maicon, Lucio and Thiago Motta.

“I had a special relationship with Julio. I lived in the San Siro area, he was on the floor above mine. Our wives were friends, we went to Appiano Gentile together. Then, of course, we were mocking each other, I’d tell him how I’d score a goal, he’d say he’d take them all from me.”

The Argentine touched on how Jose Mourinho’s presence was needed to keep the squad working together well.

“Yes. He knew how to lead a team like us, finding a compromise between everyone to reach the goal. He brought out the best in everyone by alternating between being nice and mean. He even shouted at me during the games, he knew that the reprimands, even the strong ones, shouted at me, were a thousand times stronger.”

Milito spoke about the two Italians in the squad, Francesco Toldo and Marco Materazzi.

“Fundamental. It was said that Inter were not very Italian, which made them feel even more important and involved within the squad. Matrix and Toldo kept us cheerful, they were leaders in a team that had many leaders. And as many characters, Muntari, for example. He was really an original guy, and in training he was hard.”

The former Inter forward spoke about his relationship with Samuel Eto’o.

“I’m proud to have played with him. I’m more of a penalty area striker, he’s able to play close to me as well as further out, adapting to dirty work. For Inter he made himself available, even sacrificing himself as a full-back.”

He touched on the most important moments of that season for him.

“Kiev, in the Champions League. We’re down 1-0 with four minutes to go, it’s November and we’re out of the Champions League. Mou had charged us at halftime as only he was capableof , on the pitch we didn’t give up, Sneijder and I overturned it in extra time.

“Again, the Champions League, the quarter finals against Chelsea. They were the team to beat, we prayed that the draw would keep them away from us. When they came home, Eto’o scored and we played one of our best games. Finally, the semi-final against Barcelona, 3-1 at home, 0-1 away, with ten men. Very hard and exciting.”

Milito revealed that the squad did dream of winning the Treble.

“Yes. For us it was a dream, and that gave us the strength to make it come true. Mou told us that we had to dream, it’s good that you do it, but you don’t have to turn the dream into an obsession. We succeeded and we won.”

He spoke about his best goals in that season.

“The goal where there was the turn against Van Buyten and the touch on Butt’s exit, nice, yes. But the one against Roma, in the Coppa Italia final, a right-footed cross on the far post, I’d put on the same level.”

The former Inter striker discussed if he preferred winning the league title or the Champions League.

“I enjoyed the Scudetto a lot. It was a year-long struggle, at a certain point it seemed to have escaped us.”

Finally, Milito discussed his comments after the Champions League final where he suggested that he might be leaving the club.

“It was a mistake. In my years at Inter I’ve had offers to leave, but when you feel good in a place, you shouldn’t leave it. And I didn’t.”

Apollo Heyes
By Apollo Heyes

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