Mourinho had faith in man nobody wanted

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The Independent Football

It was hailed as the day that Jose Mourinho would be confirmed King of the Bernabeu but ultimately it was the man they call The Prince who made Internazionale champions of Europe. Diego Milito was not one of the five players released by Real Madrid on the pitch – more everybody's reject than a Madrid one.

The Argentinian striker scored 53 goals in 108 games for a Zaragoza side that was relegated in his final season. But that prolific return was not enough to persuade any of Europe's big clubs to take a chance on a player who had blossomed late and had his greatest moment aged 30 here last night.

Neither of Spain's big two wanted Milito, and Tottenham were the only team in England to be interested, leaving a €10m move to Genoa as his best and almost only option. In Milito's first and last season at the club, only Zlatan Ibrahimovich outscored him in Italy as he bagged 24 goals. With Ibrahimovic off to Barcelona, Mourinho took him to the San Siro. It was like taking a chance on a sure hit.

The record of a goal every other game continued and he bagged 22 as Inter won Serie A. Last night he did what the man he replaced always found so difficult: scoring on the big occasions. Before this season Ibrahimovic had never scored in Europe after January. That failure in the knockout stages of the competition that Inter were so desperate to win after a 45-year wait made selling him and buying Milito good business.

His first goal summed up the player: first the battering ram centre-forward getting on the end of the long punt upfield; then after the return pass from Wesley Sneijder the subtle control and lethal execution.

The second strike from an exquisite pass by Samuel Eto'o made it six goals in 11 Champions' League games this season. Milito scored the goal that handed Inter the title on the last day of the season against Siena; now he scored the goals that would earn them their first-ever Treble.

His 22 league goals have not been enough to persuade Diego Maradona to put him in the starting line-up. Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain is likely to partner Lionel Messi in attack and the fact Milito has won three more trophies this season than the Madrid man is unlikely to be enough to push him up the pecking order.

Along with full-back Maicon, he is the Inter player that Real Madrid fans would most like to see join Mourinho at the club if and when he is unveiled as manager. If Milito does come, he will cost double the money that Madrid could have had him for back in 2008 when he left La Liga via the back door. Last night he went out through the front entrance holding a European Cup-winners medal.