Even if his remarkable tally of 24 league goals in 31 matches for Genoa CFC last season bred high expectations, the impact Diego Milito has made since moving to FC Internazionale Milano has been impressive.
The 30-year-old has already struck seven times in nine Serie A outings this term for the Nerazzurri, who have won every game in which Milito has scored – notably the league leaders' 4-0 crushing of AC Milan. However, a thigh injury cost the Argentinian nearly the entire month of October and, prior to Wednesday's Matchday 4 trip to FC Dynamo Kyiv, the striker had accumulated only 85 minutes of UEFA Champions League football and no goals.
Perhaps there is a direct correlation between Milito's absence and the surprising fact that Inter sit bottom of Group F – an uncomfortable position for a club seeking a first triumph at this level since 1965. "You could say that there is a special hunger for this tournament at Inter," Milito told uefa.com. "This is one of the great clubs and it needs to be champion of Europe after not having been for many years. The demand from people around the club to win the Champions League has been rising in recent years. Obviously it's not an easy task but we are going to try to achieve it."
The premium which Inter placed on reaching the Santíago Bernabéu final next May is evidenced by them having spent a reported €40m on Milito and his Genoa team-mate Thiago Motta, plus being prepared to exchange Zlatan Ibrahimović for Samuel Eto'o, a proven scorer in the UEFA Champions League, and a significant fee. The Milito-Eto'o partnership exploded into life before spluttering a little with the Cameroonian missing matches through injury, and while neither has scored in Europe this season, Milito knows the duo can forge a special bond.
"What you see is what you get with Samuel – Samuel is a born winner and very ambitious. He never gives up and he's always looking to improve himself. What's special about him is that he transmits all of this to those around him. I knew of him in Spain when I played against him [for Real Zaragoza] but now that he's my team-mate I must say that everything you see from the outside is what you get when you play with him."
If the glamour tie for Milito, and the emotional return 'home' for former Barça players Eto'o and Motta, comes when Inter play the European champions at the Camp Nou on Matchday 5 the bread and butter of fighting their way up Group F starts rather sooner. The last time the Nerazzurri travelled to Kyiv, in December 2003, a draw saw both them and Dynamo eliminated from the competition.
Milito knows his team face another a stern challenge if they are to avoid a similar fate six years on under José Mourinho. "We are going to have to give our all to win our remaining matches in Kyiv, Barcelona and [at home to FC Rubin Kazan] but that's not simple," he continued. "The group is tough and has become more difficult but that's what this competition is like; there are no easy teams. Winning in both Kiev and against Rubin is not going to be easy but we might need to do that to get to the next round."
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.