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How Gonzalo Higuain revitalized his career at Napoli
Imagine how many editors Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis must have had to ignore before publishing his vilifying statement regarding departing striker Gonzalo Higuain on his club’s official website. The outspoken Italian film producer criticized the “traitorous” player and even referenced the Navi’s in his shocking attack on Higuain following the Argentina forward’s move to Italian rivals Juventus.
Emotion inevitably runs high when any player moves to a rival club, but the €90 million price tag on Higuain’s transfer has led many fans to question the intentions of his transfer.
Except Higuain’s career path doesn’t support the mold of a money-chasing player in the slightest. Perhaps De Laurentiis has forgotten why Higuain joined Napoli in the first place.
Higuain moved to Naples back in 2013 from Real Madrid, his employer of seven years. He had moved to the Spanish capital in 2007 from River Plate in Argentina and although he scored more than fifty goals in sixty-six appearances following his breakout 2008 season, the arrivals of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema crowded him out of the starting eleven.
He had a cushy salary and comfortable bench position in Madrid from there on out but he aspired for more and that led him to the Napoli move. Having signed for Madrid under former president Ramon Calderon, Higuain also felt a lack of institutional support from the very top; in fact, he had considered leaving a year earlier, but then-manager Jose Mourinho convinced him to stay.
Higuain had also drawn interest from Arsenal at the time but Napoli forked out the €39 million for the Argentine international.
He had been supremely consistent for Madrid yet this was a matter of taking one step back to make another forward in his career; one that he handled with grace, for that matter.
“It has been seven years at Real Madrid and I need a change,” he said at the time, per The Guardian. “This is a decision that I have taken calmly, it is not a snap decision. No one has gifted me anything: I have always had to fight. I came here for €12m and they will sell me for a lot more. I want to go where they show they really want me.”
The risk paid off handsomely, both figuratively and now literally. He achieved most everything he wanted in Napoli, having scored seventy-one goals in just 104 appearances. He replicated his goalscoring tally from 2008-2010 in his first two seasons in Italy and netted a career-best thirty-six goals in thirty-five games last season, bringing Napoli much closer to the Serie A title.
Previous misconceptions of him as an “average” striker at Madrid were blown out of the water and this latest transfer puts the twenty-eight-year-old in an optimal position to build upon that form as he reaches his prime years.
Is Higuain actually worth the €90 million Juventus have shelled out for him? Possibly not. But for the reigning Italian champions, it made sense to pull out all the stops for one of the world’s most consistent strikers, one with proven success in Serie A.
Whilst his former employers have attempted to cast him into the role of public enemy No1, Higuain has taken the high road and thanked Napoli for the opportunity they gave him.
“I’ve remained silent in recent days, but these have been three amazing years and I can only say thanks for all the love I was given, but this was a decision I took for my own reasons,” he said at his Juventus unveiling. “I can understand that they are angry with me and I’ve seen the insults, but it is something I had to do and I’m happy about it.
“[Napoli coach Maurizio] Sarri made me grow and he has been a great coach for me, and if he’s angry about me leaving without saying goodbye to him, then I apologize — I can only thank him.”
For Higuain, the transfer cost was not only “humbling” but a not-so-thinly veiled statement of the Old Lady’s intent to remount another Champions League campaign. And this time, Higuain will be at the heart of it.
“The ambition shown over the summer was an important factor for me,” he said. “Combined with the desire of the players already here, this was an offer I could not refuse. The depth of this squad is one of its greatest strengths and the competition for places all over the field is a massive advantage for us.”