'Higuain's penalty miss a real shame'

Former Napoli midfielder Mauro believes the team too often struggle in decisive matches following their failure to qualify for the Champions League by losing to Lazio

Gonzalo Higuain’s penalty miss was “a real shame” but Napoli are too often found wanting in key matches, according to former midfielder Massimo Mauro.

Rafael Benitez’s side, needing to win to qualify for the Champions League, found themselves 2-0 down at home to Lazio on Sunday before Higuain’s double dragged them back level.

However, the Argentine striker then blazed over a crucial spot kick before two late goals sealed a 4-2 victory for Stefano Pioli’s side and condemn Napoli to a fifth-placed finish in Serie A.

“Lazio were extraordinary in the first half, then collapsed. Napoli came back brilliantly but seem to suffer in the important moments,” Mauro, who spent four years at the San Paolo, told Sky.

“Higuain is an important striker but that penalty miss was a real shame.”

Napoli themselves declined to speak to the media immediately following the match amid reported threats of violence from their own supporters.

Lots of teams want Higuain, claims father

The striker has been linked with Arsenal in the past week but his representative doubts the striker will depart the San Paolo this summer

Gonzalo Higuain is unlikely to leave Napoli despite interest from “lots of clubs”, according to his father and agent.

The striker has been linked with an end-of-season departure from the Stadio San Paolo, with Arsenal and Atletico Madrid rumoured to be considering a summer bid for the Argentina international.

However, Jorge Higuain has suggested this son has no desire to quit the Serie A club, whom he joined from Real Madrid for €40 million two years ago.

“There are a lot of teams interested in Gonzalo,” he told El Crack Deportivo. “However, he has a three-year contract to run with Napoli.

“I do not think he will go anywhere.”

Higuain has scored 16 goals in 35 Serie A appearances this season – joint-fourth with two matchdays to go – while netting 27 times in all competitions for the Partenopei.

But his goals look like they might not have been able to fire Napoli to a spot in next season’s Champions League, as they sit three points adrift of third-placed Lazio.

'Higuain said he would retire if Napoli lost'

Dnipro defender Artem Fedetskiy claims the Argentine should now stand by his word, while he dedicated his side’s shock win to Ukraine’s soldiers

Gonzalo Higuain threatened to quit football if Napoli failed to beat Dnipro in the Europa League, according to defender Artem Fedetskiy.

A solitary goal from Yevhen Seleznyov gave the Ukraine side a 1-0 win in the semi-final second leg and booked a place in their first ever European final with a 2-1 aggregate triumph.

Higuain was defended by head coach Rafa Benitez following a poor display on Thursday but Fedetskiy says the Argentine should now stand by his alleged comments.

“Before the match, Higuain said that, if Napoli didn’t win, he would stop playing football,” he told reporters.

“Now I’ll wait until tomorrow. Everyone should take responsibility for the things they say. Maybe he didn’t believe we were a worthwhile team.”

Fedetskiy dedicated the victory to Ukraine’s fighting forces, with the country still locked in a military dispute with Russia.

“I dreamed of this final. I’m happy and proud for my city, my team, my country. This victory is for our soldiers, who are defending us. They are our heroes,” said the 30-year-old.

Higuain not to blame for Napoli exit – Benitez

Having suffered a shock defeat, the Spaniard admits that his future at the club remains clouded but believes his side deserved better

Napoli boss Rafael Benitez has defended striker Gonzalo Higuain after his side were knocked out of the Europa League at the semi-final stage by Dnipro 2-1 on aggregate.

After the first leg ended 1-1 in Italy, a single goal from Yevhen Seleznyov secured the Ukrainians’ progress to the final.

The Serie A outfit passed up a number of chances, with Higuain especially guilty, yet the coach has absolved him of any individual blame.

“It isn’t important to talk about any mistakes Higuain made,” he told Mediaset. “We win and lose together.

“We had big chances both in the first and second half, but we couldn’t score. We deserved more.

“Their goal was strange, but that’s not important now; they are in the Europa League final and Napoli are not.”

Victory in the Europa League would have brought a spot in the Champions League next term, and with qualification unlikely due to their position in Serie A, the Spaniard has confessed his tenure remains delicate.

“I have to talk with [club president Aurelio] De Laurentiis and he will take a decision in the next few days,” the 55-year-old added.

Gonzalo Higuain can fix another family outing

EXCLUSIVE: Goal meets Jorge, father of the Napoli striker and part of a remarkable clan of footballers and artists who could be set for another big family holiday…

By Daniel Gabin

Napoli and former Real Madrid star Gonzalo Higuain was born into a special family.

Last summer they went to Rio de Janeiro for the World Cup final. One of them was playing and the others were watching.

This remarkable family – an artist, a drummer, two footballers, one agent and one very proud ex-footballer – hope to have another outing this year, to Warsaw, for the Europa League final.

It all depends on the most famous member of the Higuain family, the Napoli striker Gonzalo. This “quiet, polite, hard-working boy” spearheaded Argentina’s attack at the World Cup and will lead Napoli’s front line in Thursday’s Europa League semi-final, second leg against Dnipro.

If he scores, Napoli will have a great chance of making it to Poland on May 27 – because they have not lost one of the 36 matches in which Higuain has scored since he signed from Real Madrid two seasons ago.

Between them, the Higuain family have played for nearly all the top clubs in Argentina. One or another Higuain has featured in La Liga, Serie A, the Turkish Superlig, MLS, the Champions League, the Europa League, the Copa America and the World Cup final.

The father is Jorge Higuain, who played in defence for San Lorenzo, Boca Juniors, River Plate and Banfield. His nickname was ‘El Pipa'; Gonzalo’s is ‘El Pipita’. Jorge and Nancy, the artist mother, married young and had four sons.

Nicolas played two matches for third division side Defensores de Belgrano, but gave up when he realised he would not make the grade. He is an official Fifa agent whose clients include his brothers, Gonzalo and Federico, the latter playing for Columbus Crew in the United States.

Lautaro, the youngest, is 23 and has chosen a career in music, playing the drums.

Gonzalo was born in France, where Jorge played a season for Brest, but he was raised in Buenos Aires.

“I knew when he was a young kid that Gonzalo would be a special player,” Jorge told Goal. “He was different from the others. I didn’t judge him as a father, I watched him as a man who played football for a long time. I used to say to my wife: ‘Gonzalo will play only a short time in Argentina.’ I knew he would go to Europe and a short time later, that happened.”

Gonzalo – who joined Real Madrid as a teenager – and his elder brother Federico grew up together at River Plate. While they were playing in the youth system they attended the club’s school, the Instituto River Plate.

Federico, 30, is three years older than Gonzalo. He had a season at Besiktas but has spent the rest of his career the other side of the Atlantic, in Argentina and the US. He won the ‘best newcomer’ award in the MLS after he signed for Columbus Crew in 2012, and is happily settled there with his wife and family.

“We have a really close family,” Federico told ESPN, “and we try to keep close as much as we can. But it’s tough because of where our careers have taken us.”

Last summer, Jorge had a surprise when the whole family arrived in Buenos Aires to celebrate his birthday. “We were in Argentina with Gonzalo, before the World Cup, and Fede gave me a surprise. He arrived from the USA with his wife and kids. A day later, they flew back. It was very emotional for me. It’s hard to find moments when we can be together because the MLS schedule runs from March to November, without breaks.”

Gonzalo, 27, and Federico, 30, never had any doubts that they would be footballers.

“From the moment they woke up, to when they went to bed, they were playing football,” Jorge added.

“At home we were always talking about football. It was the same at my parents-in-law, too. Both my brothers-in-law, Claudio and Alberto, played football. My father-in-law was a boxer. It was 100 per cent a sporting family. Maybe the boys would take a break to play on the computer.”

Gonzalo was a good student as well as a good footballer. “He was always lovely with his parents, a responsible boy,” said Jorge.

“Nancy and I didn’t influence our kids to play football. ‘First, you have to study. And if you want to play football, nice too,’ we used to say. Give them a good education and good values was the main thing.

“I was very proud when they both became professionals, we had a hug. I felt similar to my own father when I played my first professional game.

And when Gonzalo won his first Argentina cap?

“I reminded him how he had fought to get it, because he felt very worried about his absence from the national squad. ‘What do I have to do to be called up?’ he used to say me. ‘You must keep playing well and score goals.’

“And that was what he did. Diego [Maradona] called him and he scored against Peru. It was a very important goal for World Cup qualifying.”

There were “special moments” for Jorge when Gonzalo won the first trophy at Real Madrid [the Spanish title in 2007] and when Federico won promotion with Nueva Chicago. There could be another special moment in Warsaw, at the end of May, if Napoli can overcome Dnipro.