Higuain delighted with hat-trick against Dinamo

The Argentina international inspired Rafa Benitez’s side to a 3-1 victory at San Paulo, which he says will be vital ahead of the return leg

Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain was delighted after netting a hat-trick in his side’s 3-1 Europa League victory over Dinamo Moscow.

The Argentina international three inside an hour after Kevin Kuranyi had given the visitors the lead at the San Paulo in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

And the former Real Madrid star says the two-goal advantage will be vital for the return fixture.

“I’m happy for the hat-trick but above all for the win, which we really wanted,” Higuain told the club website.

“It was not easy to beat Dinamo Moscow, who are really tough opponents. We knew that and wanted to get the win at home so we can go to Russia with that extra bit of confidence.

“We could have scored a fourth goal but the important thing was to gain an advantage and after their goal in the first few minutes, it was not easy to bounce back like we did.”

Rafael Benitez also stressed that the tie is not yet finished and urged his side to remain concentrated when they play in the Russian capital.

“We have made an important step forward, but it won’t be easy in Russia,” he said. “We will have to work very hard to qualify.

“Higuain is very important for us, but the whole team played well tonight. All the lads allowed Gonzalo to score three goals this evening.”

Benitez: I am too busy to discuss Napoli future

The Spaniard’s contract expires in May but the former Liverpool boss says he is only focusing on the crucial final three months of the season

Napoli coach Rafael Benitez has once again refused to commit himself to the club beyond the end of the season.

The Spaniard signed a two-year deal when he was named Partenopei boss in May 2013, meaning he has just over three months remaining on his current contract with the Serie A side.

With Benitez having led Napoli to Coppa Italia glory last season and his team currently going well both domestically and in the Europa League, club president Aurelio De Laurentiis wants the 54-year-old to extend his stay at the San Paolo.

Benitez, though, says he is only focusing on a busy run of fixtures and has no intention of discussing a new deal at this point in the campaign.

“I have already said that the most important thing and what really counts is to do our best in the next three months we have to face,” the former Liverpool boss told Radio Kiss Kiss .

“I am busy and focused on continuing our campaign. We have many games in many competitions where we have set objectives to fulfill.

“There will be time to talk about my future. At the moment we are focused only on the Sassuolo clash and to give continuity to our positive run.”

Napoli will have to make do without top scorer Gonzalo Higuain at Sassuolo but Benitez is in no doubt he has sufficient strength in depth to cope with the Argentine striker’s unavailability.

“We have different options and I believe that is good for the team,” he added.

“Manolo Gabbiadini is doing a great job and Jose Callejon as well, as he has scored nine goals so far.  

“Duvan Zapata has always given a great help on the pitch. Marek Hamsik and Jonathan de Guzman have proven they can both make assists and score goals as well, while Dries Mertens is a talented palymaker. 

“We can say with no doubt that we have quality up front and we have a squad which provides us with many alternatives. 

“If that were considered a problem, I would call it a ‘good problem’ because having all of those options is always very positive for any coach.”

Napoli, who routed Trabzonspor 4-0 in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie on Thursday, sit third in Serie A, two points ahead of fourth-placed Lazio ahead of their game in hand at Sassuolo.

Higuain: Supercoppa success the turning point in Napoli's season

The Argentine scored a dramatic late winner against Inter but refused to accept any personal plaudits afterwards, insisiting the Partenopei’s resurgence has been a team effort

Gonzalo Higuain identified December’s Supercoppa Italiana success as the turning point of Napoli’s season, after firing his side into the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia on Wednesday night.

The Partenopei’s last-eight encounter with Inter at the San Paolo looked certain to go to extra time but, with just seconds remaining, their Argentine centre-forward lost Andrea Ranocchia on a throw-in before curling home a sublime winner.

Higuain refused to accept any praise for his last-gasp heroics, though, preferring instead to pay tribute to Rafael Benitez’s entire squad for building upon their penalty shootout success over Juventus in the Supercoppa Italiana just before the winter break.

“I want to thank my team-mates and the fans who have supported us,” the striker told Rai Sport.

“The team has worked really well in this last period. We’re all going through a good moment right now and we must continue to take advantage of that. 

“We work well right until the end of every game and I’m sure that tonight’s win is just a consequence of this.

“I must say that we started to improve after the victory in the Supercoppa, as it gave us great confidence for the rest of the season. 

“But we’re not thinking too far ahead, only of Udinese this weekend.”

Napoli have lost just once since their Supercoppa success, coincidentally to Juve in Serie A, and will go into Sunday’s meeting with Udinese at the San Paolo just four points behind second-placed Roma in the standings.

Meanwhile, the reigning Coppa Italia champions will now face Lazio in the last four of this year’s competition.

Supercoppa will not satisfy Napoli hunger – Higuain

The striker scored twice and converted his penalty as Rafa Benitez’s men beat Juventus on spot kicks in a gripping final in Doha

Gonzalo Higuain believes Napoli can aim even higher in the second half of the season after claiming the Supercoppa Italiana with a penalty shootout win over Juventus.

Higuain scored twice to cancel out goals from compatriot Carlos Tevez as Monday’s clash between the Scudetto holders and Coppa Italia winners in Doha finished 2-2 after extra-time.

Napoli ultimately triumphed 6-5 on penalties after Simone Padoin missed in sudden death, and Higuain is confident his side can set their sights on more silverware in 2015 if they can find some consistent form in Serie A.

“We played a great game, I’m proud of the team. We faced a great team like Juve but today we did everything to win and more,” he told Rai Sport after the match. “I dedicate this to all our fans.

“We need to have more consistency in the league, but if we continue like this, we can have a great season. We’re aiming very high.”

Napoli, who are currently fourth in Serie A, resume their campaign against Cesena on January 6.

They trail league leaders Juventus by 12 points and are nine adrift of second-placed Roma with 16 games played. However, Rafa Benitez’s men are level on points with Lazio, who currently occupy the final Champions League qualification spot.

Bale & Neymar are hits, but Ozil & Cavani are misses – Goal readers' verdicts on 2013's biggest transfers

After more than 150,000 votes, the Real Madrid and Barcelona duo are labelled successes while the Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain stars have been deemed failures so far

Gareth Bale and Neymar have both impressed since moving to La Liga while Mesut Ozil and Edinson Cavani are yet to prove their worth, Goal readers say.

Following the publication of the 2013 Goal Transfer List, we asked readers to vote on whether the 10 biggest transfers of last year had proved successful or not, and the response was huge.

After his record-breaking transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid, an impressive 85 per cent of you considered Bale, who scored in both los Blancos’ Copa del Rey and Champions League final triumphs earlier this year, a success at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Another player to head to the Spanish top-flight in 2013 was Neymar. The Brazilian was captured in what proved to be a controversial transfer, but there can be no doubting that he has been a hit at Barcelona having gained a 77% approval rating.

Mesut Ozil, who has struggled after a bright start to his career at Arsenal, had 69% of the overall votes cast on his move to north London to say he has not been a success, while Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani only fared marginally better with 62% declaring him a miss too.

However, the transfer that has been most heavily criticised by the Goal audience, is Falcao’s decision to switch Atletico Madrid for Monaco, which 81% declared a poor move.

Although he has now moved on to link up with Bale in Madrid, James Rodriguez’s swap of Porto for the principality club was regarded as a great decision, with 82% backing it.

Gonzalo Higuain’s exchange of los Blancos for Napoli gained a 64% hit rating, while Mario Gotze also scored highly after switching Borussia Dortmund for Bayern Munich, with 80% of readers claiming it prosperous.

Another PSG signing, Marquinhos, was declared a miss by 62% of you, while Marouane Fellaini’s move from Everton to Manchester United was lambasted with 72% of the votes labelling it a poor transfer.