Gonzalo Higuain - The world's most expensive choker?
Juventus have pulled off the biggest signing of this transfer window thus far as they signed Gonzalo Higuain from Serie A rivals, Napoli, for a whopping €90 million. He now becomes the third most expensive signing in world football, the most expensive in Serie A by quite a distance. But, is the Argentine also the most expensive choker in world football today?
It seems incomprehensible that someone who was roundly blamed for Argentina’s failure to capture an international trophy in the twin Copa Americal finals against Chile and the World Cup final against Germany is now worth more than the likes of Luis Suarez, Zinedine Zidane, and Luis Figo. But, on the other hand, El Pipita is coming off an incredible campaign with Napoli where he scored 36 goals in Serie A, equalling a record that has stood for 87 years.
So, this begs the question: Exactly what kind of player have Juventus just spent €90 million on? Are they going to get a lethal hitman who will fire them to glory or will they get someone who goes missing in big games and doesn’t live up to the price tag?
A lethal weapon
Whatever you want to say about him, there is no denying the incredible goal-scoring pedigree of Gonzalo Higuain. Headers, left foot, right foot, it doesn’t matter. When the opportunity presents itself, he buries it. Week in, week out.
When he was signed by Real Madrid as a teenager for €12 million, there were quite a few eyebrows raised. Real had just made a significant investment on a youngster who was relatively unknown in European football. Despite a slow start to life at the Bernabeu, he found his goal-scoring boots in the 2008-09 season, scoring 22 goals. The Argentine youngster followed that up with his most prolific season in Madrid colours as he scored 27 league goals, even finishing ahead of teammate Cristiano Ronaldo on the goal-scoring charts.
Three years of fighting for a first-team place with Karim Benzema followed and despite out-scoring the Frenchman, Higuain was left playing second fiddle. His frustration prompted Napoli to pull off a real coup as they signed him for a princely sum of €40 million, ending his Real career with 107 goals from just 190 appearances.
With such a significant investment, Napoli were hoping to end Juve's monopoly at the Serie A summit but things did not go quite to plan. His first two seasons in Naples saw El Pipita score a respectable 35 goals against the notoriously defensive Italian teams, but it was his last season at the San Paolo which really saw his value soar to eye-watering standards. Shattering all goal-scoring records, Higuain scored an incredible 36 goals in just 35 league games, prompting Juventus to make a stratospheric bid to bring him to Turin.
Missing in action
How is it possible that someone with the goal-scoring pedigree of Gonzalo Higuain comes across as a choker? How can someone who averages almost a goal a game in the most defensive league in the world, be a risky piece of transfer business? The answer becomes all too apparent if one looks under the surface of these impressive statistics. While he scores goals for fun against the smaller teams, Gonzalo Higuain goes missing in the big games.
His statistics in cup competitions is simply dreadful, as he has scored just 7 goals in 32 cup games and he has scored more than one goal in a domestic competition just once in his entire career when he scored 2 goals in his debut season with Napoli. He has won just two cup competition in his club career – One Copa Italia with Napoli and one Copa del Rey with Real Madrid – making absolutely minimal impact in both competitions.
But what about European competitions, you ask? Higuain has scored a grand total of 23 goals in 78 games in Europe – less than a goal every three games. Add to that, he has never won a European competition, while Real have gone on to win two Champions Leagues after his departure.
Choke on this
Even disregarding his less than stellar record in club cup competitions, it is his performances in Argentine colours that really bring to the fore Higuain’s tendency to choke on the big stage. While he has scored a respectable 30 goals in his 62 international appearances, it his misses which always grab the headlines. Ask any Argentine who is to blame for their hat-trick of international cup final losses and every one of them will point the finger at the new Juventus signing.
He missed a gilt-edged opportunity in the 2014 World Cup when one-vs-one against German keeper Manuel Neuer when the scores were still level and also had a goal disallowed for offside. Germany won the game 1-0 in Extra Time.
In first of two Copa Americal losses to Chile, he was one of two players to miss a penalty in the shootout after the game finished level. The next year? He missed a number of opportunities yet again, as Chile handed the Albiceleste their third consecutive defeat in the final of a major international competition. Hell, you could probably blame Leo Messi’s international retirement on Higuain. If the centre-forward had converted even one of the many many opportunities that came his way, Argentina would have won at least one of the three finals and Messi would never have felt the need to take the drastic step of retirement.
The bottom line
Without a shadow of a doubt, Gonzalo Higuain is one of the most gifted strikers of our generation, but at the same time, he is NOT a player worth €90 million. The only thing Juve have managed with this deal is to guarantee themselves yet another Scudetto. It will take a lot more than spending silly money on a big game choker to help them reach their ultimate goal of Champions League glory.