It was clear the moment it happened that this was a bad injury. Diego Milito landed awkwardly, his left foot remained planted firmly on the ground while his knee carried on the momentum, bending horribly out of shape. The tears as he was stretchered off in a stunned San Siro meant he had the same concern everyone did. Those fears were confirmed by the tests on Thursday evening – lesion to the anterior cruciate ligament and the collateral ligament with damage to the knee capsule. It’s a disastrous triple whammy.
The Inter medical staff haven’t given a timeframe for his recovery yet, but this type of injury requires at least six months, possibly nine depending on the extent of the damage. That will only become clear after surgery, which will be in a matter of hours. Knowing you’ll be out for that amount of time is distressing for any player, let alone one who turns 34 in June.
He’ll have someone to help him through it, as teammate Dejan Stankovic made his comeback last week after nine months out with an Achilles tendon issue. The Serbian midfielder received a rapturous ovation from San Siro on his return and we are all waiting to stand and applaud when Milito steps back on to that pitch.
There is so much rivalry in football, leading to vicious jokes, cruel insults and even physical violence, but the reaction to Milito’s injury has been of widespread sadness. Il Principe is a highly-respected forward, a great goal-scorer and above all a really nice guy. Club affiliation is left to one side when things like this happen, just as they were as Alessandro Del Piero was stretchered off with a similar injury in 1998 or Giuseppe Rossi snapped the same knee ligament again before he had even managed to make his comeback.
For all the petty discussion between fans, we all belong to the football family. We wish Milito a speedy recovery, even if it means he’ll be back scoring against our teams as he inevitably does. Mejorate pronto, Principe.
Inter now find themselves in a totally unexpected situation. Rodrigo Palacio and Tommaso Rocchi represent their only real centre-forwards, so the idea of handing Marko Livaja to Atalanta in the January transfer window seems ill-judged. Maybe it will prompt the always experimental Andrea Stramaccioni to adopt a Spanish-style no striker system, or let the former Primavera Coach pluck new talents from the youth ranks.
There is also the option of signing a player who is out of contract, just as Lazio did with Louis Saha after Miroslav Klose was ruled out for two months, but Inter already have one veteran stopgap solution in Rocchi and there aren’t many valid alternatives out there.