Higuain dropped by Milan ahead of Chelsea move

Gonzalo Higuain has been left out of Milan’s squad to face Genoa, with head coach Gennaro Gattuso effectively confirming the Argentina striker has decided he wants to join Chelsea.

Higuain came off the bench during the second half of the Supercoppa Italiana defeat to Juventus last time out – a decision Gattuso attributed to the player suffering from a virus.

He was not listed when Milan tweeted their 23-man travelling party for Monday’s match at Stadio Luigi Ferraris and, at a subsequent news conference, Gattuso questioned Higuain’s professionalism and insisted recent speculation had taken its toll with Milan managing two wins in their past eight outings.

“I want to be honest with you all. We had a poor training session today due to all these rumours,” Gattuso said.

“We spoke after the training session and I did not consider him [Higuain] ready for this game.

“I accept his decision. Surely he could have done more and maybe we could have helped him fit in better.

“Right now we have to work with professionalism and determination, all these rumours have not helped us lately and we have to look ahead.

“I am more worried about how to transmit calmness to the players and how to field the best team. Tomorrow [Monday] we will be without four players and I am a bit worried. We have to put it aside and play with enthusiasm.

Higuain joined Milan on an initial season-long loan deal in August, with Milan having the option to buy him outright for €36million.

That part of the transfer was assumed to be a formality but an underwhelming return of six goals in 15 Serie A appearances – and one since the end of October – leave the 31-year-old bound for a reunion with his old Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri.

Article continues below

Chelsea lie fourth in the Premier League, although Sarri lambasted his players in the aftermath of Saturday’s 2-0 London derby loss to Arsenal, accusing them of lacking motivation and a strong mentality.

Eden Hazard cut a forlorn figure when selected once again as the Blues’ central attacker – a role Higuain is expected to step straight into with Sarri seemingly reluctant to start Olivier Giroud and having left Alvaro Morata out of his latest matchday squad. The Spain striker has been linked with a move to Atletico Madrid.

During his final season under Sarri at Napoli in 2015-16, Higuain set a Serie A scoring record with 36 goals in 35 top-flight appearances.


Sarri: How I got the best out of Chelsea target Higuain at Napoli

With Gonzalo Higuain nearing an arrival at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri spoke about how he got a record-setting season out of the striker while in charge of Napoli.

Higuain won’t be with Chelsea for their match against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, but it is hoped that a deal to take over AC Milan’s loan will be concluded soon.

Milan are in talks to sign Genoa striker Krzysztof Piątek in his place, while Chelsea remain locked in negotiations to offload Alvaro Morata in a loan move to Atletico Madrid.

The Spain international is hoping to leave the Blues, allowing space for the club to sign Sarri favourite Higuain.

Sarri was the manager at Napoli as Higuain broke a 50-year Serie A goal record, netting 36 times in a single season in 2015-16. And while Sarri does claim some of the credit, he did not want to boil Higuain’s success down to one specific reason, noting the setup of that squad was well-suited to Higuain’s strengths. 

“It’s very difficult to say the reason. Sometimes, Higuain did very well. I think that, in that season, he played in a team very suitable for him,” Sarri told reporters.

“So every player, I remember, was very involved in Higuain’s record. So there are a lot of reasons, I think. Not only the coach, of course.”

Chelsea have targeted a number of Sarri’s former players over the course of his stay at Stamford Bridge so far, and Higuain would follow Jorginho in having come back to work with their old boss.

Jorginho was Chelsea’s first signing as he arrived in a £57 million ($73m) deal alongside Sarri from Napoli in the summer. The Italy international sits in the base of a three-man midfield and acts as a pivot for his side, passing the ball an average of 98 times per game.

However, Sarri admits that Jorginho has not been at his best in recent weeks and has encouraged him to move the ball more quickly. This comes as he waits for a potential replacement for his previous deputy, Cesc Fabregas, who joined Monaco on a free transfer last week.

“Jorginho played with me for four seasons,” Sarri added. “It’s very difficult for him to improve more. He played very well for 20 matches, I think. He’s the player in the Premier League who has touched more balls [than any other player], I think.

Jorginho quote GFX

“Now, maybe, in the last two matches he was a little bit tired. He moved the ball a little bit [more] slowly than before. But I think that it’s normal. You cannot stay at the top for 60 matches, so it’s normal to have a different period, a period when you are not so lucid as usual.

“But it’s not a big problem. Of course, it’s the reason I said we needed a replacement for Cesc.”

Chelsea are working on signing Leandro Paredes in a deal which could be worth around £30m ($39m) from Zenit , but they have yet to make a breakthrough in their talks. Sarri was asked why can’t he switch formations if Jorginho needs to be rested, in lieu of signing a replacement for Fabregas.

“Because we are not ready to change at the moment,” Sarri replied. “I can change when we are at 100 per cent in what I want to see. If in 4-3-3 we are at the top, we can try to change. Like in Naples last season, when we played in the last period also in 4-2-3-1.

“But not at the moment. We are not ready. It’s very difficult to say a percentage but, in England, it’s very difficult to arrive at the top because this one was the first week without three matches since August.

“So, for the first time in the last four months, we had time to try to improve. So it’s not easy in this situation to improve a lot in such little time.”

Maurizio Sarri and Jorginho Napoli

Chelsea have just gone over the halfway point for the season, having registered only an extra point and an extra goal on Antonio Conte’s efforts as the manager at this stage last season. Sarri has been implementing a new system which is a far cry from the way Chelsea have typically played under a succession of managers.

“At the moment, the numbers are really very similar,” Sarri said. “In the last part of last season, Chelsea didn’t do very well. So we have the possibility to improve on that. But I think it’s very important to improve from the starting condition of this year.

“I wasn’t involved last season, but I am now. I know very well where we started. And I know very well where I want to go. And I know very well that we need to improve a lot. A lot from the tactical point of view, mentally.

“We had problems with reactions to difficulties in the beginning. Now, for the third time, we reacted very well to a difficulty – after Watford, Tottenham and Newcastle – after their goal. Now we have to show we can react from a positive situation.

“In the last matches, when we scored, we lowered the application and attention. So now we have to work just to avoid this. In my first season in Naples, we gained 41 points in the first half and 41 points in the second half, but in Naples the second part of the first part of the season was really very, very good.

Article continues below

Jorginho quote GFX

“Here it was better in the first part. I think that we will be able to improve. Not a lot, but we can improve. I have to improve first of all my players. (Callum) Hudson-Odoi is improving. (Ethan) Ampadu is improving. I think that David (Luiz) returned to his top level.

“(Ross) Barkley improved. So we are improving. Then there is the market, but the market is useful only if you need one player, two players at maximum.”


Higuain can’t come soon enough! Sarri’s Chelsea have become both blunt and predictable

Maurizio Sarri may need more than Gonzalo Higuain to solve Chelsea’s problems but his arrival can’t come soon enough.

In Saturday’s 2-0 loss at the Emirates, the Italian’s front three failed to land a glove on Arsenal, despite the fact that the Gunners have one of the Premier League’s weakest defences.

Unai Emery’s side had only three clean sheets going into this latest London derby but they kept Chelsea at bay with the minimum of fuss. Indeed, the toothless visitors didn’t register a shot on target until the 82nd minute.

This was in spite of the fact that they had 44 touches in the Arsenal area; only against Newcastle in August have they managed more in a Premier League game this season.

The Gunners were as effective as Chelsea were blunt and they were good value for a win that came courtesy of goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Laurent Koscielny, and which was achieved through the implementation of an intense pressing game from minute one.

Sarri’s line-up was easy to guess, with the Blues boss once again selecting winger Eden Hazard as a false nine, with Willian and Pedro stationed alongside the Belgian.

Unai Emery knew full well what was coming and won the tactical battle on the night by asking the recalled Aaron Ramsey to become the latest player to man-mark Jorginho out of a game.

Hazard was, thus, starved of service, rendering Chelsea utterly toothless in attack. 

Maurizio Sarri Chelsea 2018-19

Of course, Chelsea have agreed a loan deal with Juventus for Higuain and should be able to complete their move as soon as they agree a deal with Atletico Madrid for Alvaro Morata.

However, they really could have done with Higuain in north London, as his presence would have not only inserted a proven goalscorer and a natural centre-forward into Chelsea’s line-up, it would have also allowed hazard to play in his preferred position on the left wing.

Hazard is a good false nine but he’s a much better winger and always looks far happier when instructed to run at defenders rather than in behind them.

Olivier Giroud did came off the bench in the second half against Arsenal but the game was already lost at that point.

Besides, the Frenchman was only ever a stop-gap signing, a useful alternative to turn to while Morata was trying to rediscover his confidence. 

That never happened, of course, and now the hope is that Higuain can answer Chelsea’s problems in front of goal.

The 31-year-old striker will be under significant pressure to hit the ground running, as Arsenal’s victory means that fourth-placed Chelsea are now just three points ahead of the Gunners and a resurgent Manchester United. 

Article continues below

Higuain scored a record-breaking 36 Serie A goals for Sarri at former club Napoli in 2015-16 and the Tuscan certainly knows how to get the best out of the enigmatic Argentine.

He’ll certainly have to at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea need goals, and fast, starting with Thursday’s Carabao Cup semi-final clash with Tottenham, with the Blues trailing 1-0 from the first leg.

However, even more importantly, Chelsea’s top-four hopes are now in jeopardy and Sarri needs Higuain to address just one of the problems his side are now facing.


Sarri ‘confident’ of January arrivals at Chelsea as hunt for Higuain & Fabregas successor continues

Maurizio Sarri is confident Chelsea will reinforce their squad in January because he understands director Marina Granovskaia is “working very hard”, with a deal for Gonzalo Higuain almost done.

While most of the Premier League’s biggest clubs look set for a quiet winter transfer window, the same cannot be said of Chelsea.

With Cesc Fabregas already gone and Callum Hudson-Odoi and Alvaro Morata interesting other clubs, Chelsea are also chasing targets of their own.

Higuain’s name has been mentioned particularly prominently, with Goal revealing that the Argentine striker is eager to join on loan from Juventus, having struggled to make much of an impact since signing a similar temporary deal at AC Milan.

Sarri was unable to offer much of an update on the pursuit of Higuain, whom he coached at Napoli, though he is optimistic about their chances of signing players.

“I don’t know, I want to be clear, I can’t help you,” Sarri told reporters ahead of Saturday’s clash with Arsenal. “I spoke to Marina two weeks ago, Marina knows my opinion.

“Then I decided to focus on the pitch, matches, training, so now I am confident because Marina is working very hard, but I don’t know anything about the matter because I only focus on matches.

“I don’t call her every evening, otherwise I spend all my mental energy on the [transfer] market. It’s better I spend my mental energy on the pitch.”

Cesc Fabregas Chelsea 2018-19

Prior to Fabregas’ departure to Monaco, Sarri was adamant he wanted a replacement for the Spaniard in the event he was allowed to leave.

He reiterated his stance after last weekend’s Newcastle win, highlighting Jorginho’s poor performance and saying he would have replaced him with Fabregas if he had still been at the club.

Although Cagliari’s Nicolo Barella and Leandro Paredes of Zenit have been strongly linked, Chelsea still do not have a replacement, though Sarri insists he is not getting frustrated yet.

“You know my opinion about the replacement of Cesc, we need one in my opinion,” Sarri added. “Marina knows my opinion, so I am not frustrated at the moment.”

Article continues below

Morata is close to joining Atletico Madrid, as revealed by Goal, though for the time being he remains available to Sarri and could play against Arsenal.

“Of course [he can play], but I don’t know if he will play,” he said. “But he is training with us. It’s normal I think.

“Of course, he’s in a very difficult moment, but it’s normal for a player in January to be involved in the [transfer] market.”


Chelsea told Higuain is the man to rekindle title aspirations and counter Morata struggles

Gonzalo Higuain would offer something “different” to Chelsea, says Mario Melchiot, with a striker of his ilk required to force the Blues back into contention for Premier League title challenges.

An assault on the summit appears to have already passed the Blues by in 2018-19, with a 10-point gap separating them from table-topping Liverpool.

Maurizio Sarri has sought to play down any talk of competing for top prizes, though, since inheriting the managerial reins from Antonio Conte last summer.

He considers Chelsea to be a work in progress during his debut campaign, with a new frontman among the many pieces of the puzzle he is after.

Goal has revealed that a deal is close to take Higuain from Juventus, with the Argentine having previously worked with Sarri at Napoli.

He is now 31 years of age, but is also a proven performer at the highest level and the kind of addition that Melchiot believes will benefit the Blues.

The former defender told talkSPORT when asked if Higuain could be the man to push Chelsea back into the fight for major honours: “Oh definitely.

“He’s a different kind of player; I feel like he’s capable of handling the defences in the Premier League and he also has way more experience, which is a big advantage.

“A team like Chelsea cannot afford to play a season without a striker who is scoring the amount of goals you need to at least compete for the league.

“That’s why they are struggling and are in the position they are in right now.”

Alvaro Morata Chelsea 2018-19

As Chelsea work on bringing one forward in, they are also looking to move another out.

Alvaro Morata has an agreement in place with Atletico Madrid, as revealed by Goal, and is waiting on a green light from the La Liga outfit.

Melchiot considers that to be another piece of smart business by the Blues, with the Spain international having struggled to produce his best throughout an 18-month spell in west London.

The ex-Netherlands international said: “Sometimes, when you come to the Premier League, if you look from the outside, you have your picture right, but then when you get involved it’s a totally different thing.

Article continues below

“He probably feels like he’s been criticised in a certain way that he didn’t expect to happen so fast, and the game is so much tougher.

“When you look at the way Morata wants to play, it’s clear he has a lot of talent and has the ability to score goals.

“But in England, regardless if you have that, the fans won’t respect you in the same way they might in Spain or in Italy.”