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Higuain is the best striker in the world – Romagnoli

Gonzalo Higuain may have struggled at AC Milan, but former Rossoneri team-mate Alessio Romagnoli believes the Chelsea striker is the best in the world.

Higuain scored six league goals in the first half of the Serie A season, but his form over those 15 games saw the Argentina striker often criticised.

The 31-year-old swapped Italy for England last month after Chelsea agreed a loan deal with parent club Juventus , Milan letting the forward go after agreeing the transfer of Krzysztof Piatek from Genoa .

After failing to score in his first two Chelsea matches, Higuain looked sharp against Huddersfield Town as he scored a double in the 5-0 victory over the Terriers on Saturday .

And Milan captain Romagnoli has admitted he was sad to see the former Real Madrid and Napoli striker leave San Siro, describing him as one of the elite.

“I still think he is the best striker in the world,” said the defender, as quoted by Calciomercato .

“I am sorry he decided to leave but we respect his decision. He is a friend of mine and if he is happy I am ok with it.

“Now we have other players that won’t make us regret his departure.”

The other player he refers to is Piatek, the Polish forward having made a superb start to life in Milan with three goals in as many games in all competitions.

Piatek AC Milan Napoli

“We enjoy having him [Piatek] here and we hope he can keep scoring at least one goal per game,” he added.

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“We hope to win many more games so we can reach the Champions League.

“Piatek’s impressed me with his desire and hunger. You can see he wants to show what he’s all about and that’s important. He’s young and on the right path.”

Higuain and Chelsea are back in action on Sunday as they make the trip to the Etihad Stadium to face leaders Manchester City.


Pistol Piatek: Milan’s Robocop has already made fans forget about Higuain

When Krzysztof Piatek was a child, he had a Manchester United jersey with Cristiano Ronaldo’s name and number on the back.

Now, the Poland striker is competing with the Portuguese superstar for this season’s Serie A capocannoniere award.

So, when Piatek described his January move to AC Milan as “a fairy tale”, it was easy to see where he was coming from.

Only last year, he was plying his trade in Poland with Cracovia. However, after a record-breaking start to the season with Genoa, he joined Milan during the winter transfer window for €35 million as a replacement for Gonzalo Higuain.

Even Piatek couldn’t quite believe what was happening, where he was and who he was surrounded by.

“Just sitting here next to legends like [Paolo] Maldini and Leonardo is a huge honour,” he gushed at his press unveiling.

Piatek admitted that the facilities alone had left him in “a state of shock”.

“Milanello is amazing!” he enthused. “Everything is of the highest standard.

“There are six pitches, two heated, one artificial, two gyms, kitchen, dining room, each player has his own room. Amazing place. Every situation and every day provide new impressions.

“Signing the contract, visiting the trophy room, that is where your jaw drops.”

Piatek Gattuso AC Milan PS

Piatek was, therefore, dumbfounded when Andriy Shevchenko came to chat with him before Milan’s Serie A clash with Napoli and could barely contain his joy after being asked for a photo by Clarence Seedorf.

Piatek’s reverence for Milan’s history, unsurprisingly, immediately endeared him to coach Gennaro Gattuso, a man steeped in the club’s traditions.

“He has only just joined but I like him already,” the former Rossoneri midfielder confessed.

“He’s a curious lad who looks at photos at Milanello: he likes to observe and experience the structure here first-hand.”

However, while Piatek may evoke memories of an awestruck Dorothy waking up in Oz, there is a colder, more serious side to his character.

“Piatek comes across like Robocop,” Gattuso acknowledged. “He only says four words. He doesn’t get lost in chatter.”

Indeed, while Piatek is as polite and respectful as they come, the man with the ‘gunslinger celebration’ has the utmost faith in his own ability.

When he joined Milan, he made clear his desire to take over the No.9 jersey left behind by Higuain. His request was rejected by the Rossoneri, though.

“The club decided to take it slowly and hold off for a bit,” Piatek explained.

“It has to be a reward for the player who deserves it, to follow in the footsteps of Filippo Inzaghi and Marco van Basten.

“I was told that I must prove myself first.”

Piatek AC Milan PS

He couldn’t have hoped for a better start in that regard.

Piatek netted with his first three shots on target for Milan, downing Napoli with a double in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals before opening the scoring in last weekend’s Serie A draw with Roma.

His performance against the Partenopei was particularly impressive, prompting headlines such as ‘Gonzalo who?’.

For the opener, he utilised his pace and intelligent positioning to get in behind and then accelerate away from the Napoli defence, while he “invented the second goal out of nothing”, as Gattuso enthused, by doing something truly special: stepping away from Kalidou Koulibaly with ease.

Furthermore, both finishes were as precise as they were composed.

The Corriere dello Sport were quick to pay tribute to ‘RoboCoppa’, while centre-half Alessio Romagnoli hailed his team-mate’s shooting as “extraordinary”.

His efficacy is certainly exceptional.

Piatek has scored more goals in all competitions this season (22) than Ronaldo (19), even though he has played six fewer games (24 in total) and taken less than half as many shots (90) as the Juventus forward (182).

In addition, the Pole’s minutes-to-goal average (89) is superior to not only Ronaldo (131.68) but also those of Kylian Mbappe (93.95), Neymar (95.75), Sergio Aguero (102.65), Robert Lewandowski (104.71) and Harry Kane (128.15).

Piatek also boasts a superior shot conversion rate (30.14) to all of those illustrious names listed above, as well as his San Siro predecessor Higuain (17.86).

Piatek Top Scorers Big Five Leagues

Those are staggering numbers for a 23-year-old who spent just over half of his first season in a ‘Big Five’ league playing for mid-table Genoa.

However, Grifone sporting Giorgio Perinetti has claimed that Piatek – who scored nine times in his first seven Serie A outings – arrived at the Luigi Ferraris “programmed” to become a great goalscorer.

“Did I expect him to have such an impact at Milan? I expected him to respond well because he’s a player who is programmed,” Perinetti said.

“Gattuso has rightly compared him to Robocop in that he is a bit robotic: he doesn’t feel tension or anxiety.

“Right from the start [former Genoa coach Davide] Ballardini told me Krzysztof would be a player who gave great satisfaction.

“He’s a finisher but also good technically. He’s 23 years old, but he can still improve so much as a player in Serie A and he has plenty of room to do so.”

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That is a terrifying prospect for Milan’s rivals for a top-four finish.

He has made a staggeringly confident start to life at San Siro. Clearly, he is going to take some stopping.

Just like Robocop.


Sarri expects ‘a lot of goals’ from Higuain and Hazard partnership

Maurizio Sarri expects Gonzalo Higuain and Eden Hazard to bring out the best in each other after both scored twice in Chelsea’s 5-0 win over Huddersfield Town on Saturday.

After making his Premier League debut in Chelsea’s humiliating 4-0 defeat to Bournemouth on Wednesday, Higuain enjoyed a rather more fruitful outing against the seemingly doomed Terriers in his Stamford Bridge bow.

Higuain opened his Chelsea account 16 minutes in, finishing after being released by N’Golo Kante, and Hazard made it 2-0 from the spot just before the interval.

Hazard got his second in the 66th minute when rounding goalkeeper Jonas Lossl, and Higuain followed suit a few moments later – his thumping effort deflecting off Terence Kongolo on its way in, and David Luiz wrapped things up.

It remains to be seen whether Higuain proves to be more of a success at the club than the likes of Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud, but Sarri is certainly optimistic about the striker combining with Hazard.

When asked if Higuain is the outlet Chelsea have been after, Sarri told reporters: “I don’t know. I know very well that, when he arrived, he wasn’t at the top of his physical condition.

“Now he is improving. I’m really very happy because, apart from the goals, my feeling is he’s really suitable to play very close to Eden.

“I think that, on the pitch, they are really very suitable to play one close to the other. For us, this is very useful for Higuain because he will be able to score a lot of goals, but also for Eden.”

Although Chelsea were able to put their Bournemouth embarrassment aside, Sarri could not guarantee the Blues will not suffer a similarly worrisome result again.

“I’m not sure, but I hope [the Bournemouth loss was a one-time thing],” he said. “As I said before, we need to improve the mentality, we have to arrive at every match with the same level of determination and motivation, and we don’t need to lose a match to have the right motivation.

“So, we need to improve. We’ll try, of course, to improve. We need to understand that, in the future, we should not have to lose a game to add motivation.”

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It was a second successive defeat since taking over at Huddersfield for Jan Siewert, but the German is not panicking, adamant there were good signs from his team.

Asked if he was able to take any positives from the loss, Siewert said: “Everything. We were the ones who had the first chance, we were willing to play forward.

“We feel we created some good moments, but we have to be much more aggressive and willing to score. Sometimes we missed the moment of a shot or a pass. This is training work.”


Hazard: Higuain is unbelievable, Chelsea can beat anyone

Eden Hazard believes Chelsea fans should expect a lot more goals from new recruit Gonzalo Higuain and feels that he and his team-mates can beat anyone ‘if they want to’.

The striker netted for the first time since joining the Blues in their 5-0 win against Huddersfield Town on Saturday.

Higuain opened the scoring at Stamford Bridge with an excellent first-time finish in the 16th minute, before adding a second later through a curling effort from the edge of the box.

It was no surprise for Hazard, who has seen firsthand what the former Napoli man can do in training, and he believes Chelsea have added a top quality finisher to their ranks.

“He’s a great striker,” Hazard told Chelsea TV.

“He’s a bit less of a target man than (Olivier) Giroud, but he can hold the ball, he can play one touches and he’s intelligent.

“In the box he’s unbelievable. He will score more goals.”

The Belgian himself notched a brace in the victory, meaning he has now scored 15 in all competitions this campaign.

They were also Hazard’s 11th and 12th strikes in the Premier League this year and the 28-year-old looks set to break his previous record of 16 league goals two seasons ago.

It was a welcome return to winning ways for Chelsea, who had lost their two Premier League games, including a remarkable 4-0 defeat at the hands of Bournemouth on Wednesday night.

While the Blues’ form has been patchy of late, Hazard hopes they can continue their winning run next week when Chelsea travel to the Etihad to face Manchester City.

The London club ended City’s unbeaten start to the campaign when they met in December, and Chelsea’s No.10 believes they can do the double over the champions.

“It’s going to be a different game than two or three months ago,” said Hazard.

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“I think they will have the ball. City have these kinds of players to play together. We will defend well and then we will score one goal or two.”

Chelsea also face City in the final of the League Cup later in February, as well as a tricky fifth-round FA Cup tie with Manchester United, but Hazard is relishing these tough tests.

“We need to be focused. This month is going to be hard, but we are Chelsea. We can beat everyone if we want.”


‘Sarri will be happy now’ – Hazard hails Chelsea response in Huddersfield trouncing

Chelsea star Eden Hazard hopes they impressed head coach Maurizio Sarri with their 5-0 thrashing of Huddersfield Town.

Hazard and Gonzalo Higuain, making his Stamford Bridge debut, scored two goals each as the Blues eased to three points that moves them back into fourth in the Premier League table.

David Luiz’s late fifth added gloss to the scoreline and helped to banish memories of Wednesday’s humbling 4-0 defeat at Bournemouth.

Sarri was far from pleased with his side’s efforts on the south coast, keeping them in the dressing room after the match for an hour, while he has also been critical of Hazard himself lately, saying the attacker must improve tactically.

After another decisive display for the Blues, though, the attacker expects his coach to be pleased with what he saw on Saturday.

“I always say when we lose a game, we need to win the game after, and we did well,” he told Premier League Productions. “We played one of the best games of our season and scored five great goals. The fans were not happy on Wednesday and now they are, so we are happy.

“I think [Sarri] will be happy because he was wanting a reaction from us and we gave him one.

“We are happy and we’re looking forward to playing Man City [in next Sunday’s EFL Cup final]. We need to keep winning like this. This kind of game is the way the manager wants us to play.

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“After this game, our confidence is better than two days ago, but we play the champions [next], so we know it will be difficult. We beat them at Stamford Bridge, so why not again?”

Hazard is confident Higuain’s first two goals since his loan move from Juventus will be just the start of a productive partnership.

“We try to work with each other,” said the Belgium star. “Higuain is a new player but he knows what the manager wants. He is a great striker and he can score a lot of goals. England is different than Italy and Spain, but he has that ability.”