On the surface, Genoa's 4-1 victory over Lecce was a typical year-end affair with little at stake. However this was far a typical day at the office, as in-truth the purpose of the match was to bid farewell to Diego Milito, a Spring celebration of a love that will never die between the young Argentine and the people of Genova.
For the most part the match was a well constructed encounter with relegation threatened Lecce showing well early on. However little by by little, Genoa ate away at their visitors lines and begin to pry them open. Midway of the opening half Sokratis Papastathopoulos created space on the right and sent a perfect cross into the box from the right byline that Crvena Zvezda product Boško Janković flicked artistically into the back of the net giving the Rossoblu. Down by one, Lecce showed tremendous pride and a few minutes past the half hour mark Simone Tiribocchi drove the ball to the opposite corner from the top of the box bringing the match even. Still all eyes were on Il Principe and with touch of the ball, the faithful rose to their feet, hoping and wishing that their hero would give them one last memory to cling to. That would come in time and oh how would it but first seven minutes into the new half, Diego drove into the area and from the left side of the area he laid the ball back to Domenico Criscito to pound into the opposite corner of the net. Now with a 2-1 lead, the stage was sent for the final Act to be played out. Four minutes shy of the hour, from the right Giuseppe Sculli fed the ball to the man of the day and after a touch for control he deftly chipped the ball in. The crowd roared its approval with ounce of strength it could muster but still there was so much more to come. With twenty-three minutes remaining Anthony Vanden Borre split the Lecce defenders providing Diego the perfect opportunity for this second of the day and he naturally obliged to make it 4-1, sending the faithful into rapturous delight. Despite a number of fine opportunities thereafter the match concluded without further mark but that of-course was only the opening Act for the day.
The real story of the day was not of the match or even Diego Milito's "storybook" two goals but the tearful goodbye shared by fans and the player alike. There are annual "goodbyes" and even chances when teams thank their supporters but this was no typical encounter. Reaching to every corner of the grounds, his personal relationship with the fans was earnest and something rarely seen in the sport today. This wasn't merely respectful or even of a man accepting of being the idol of many but a deep love and care for the area.
The "how's" and "why" the deal to see him off to Inter Milan is one to speculate and I very much doubt I will ever believe I will ever believe this is a deal Diego Milito wished to see happen. However one thing I am positive of after witnessing this outpouring today, Il Principe will forever be at home in Genova.