Maradona 'hurting' as Higuain closes on Juventus move

The Argentina legend insists the striker is not to blame but believes the Napoli fans will be hurt by the striker’s sale

Former Napoli star Diego Maradona says he is “hurting” at the prospect of Gonzalo Higuain joining Juventus.

Widespread reports in Italy on Saturday suggested the Argentina striker is poised to move to the Serie A champions after they agreed to meet his release clause of just over €94 million.

The staggering sum would make Higuain the second most expensive transfer in history, behind Gareth Bale, who left Tottenham for Real Madrid for €100m in 2013.

Italiano | Castellano Mi dispiace che Higuain vada da una rivale diretta come la Juventus. Ma non si può neanche dare…

Posted by Diego Maradona on Saturday, 23 July 2016

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis said this week that the pursuit of the striker was “a lost battle”, given that Juve general director Giuseppe Marotta had himself stated that they would not trigger the release clause.

However, with the 28-year-old reportedly having undergone a Juve medical in Madrid on Saturday, Napoli fans led a minor protest against De Laurentiis outside the club’s training base, furious at the prospect of losing last season’s Serie A top scorer to their title rivals.

And Maradona, who inspired Napoli to two Scudetti, the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Cup, feels supporters are being overlooked by “those fat cats of business” – though he said Higuain himself is not to blame.

“This Higuain affair is hurting me because he is going to a direct rival like Juventus,” he wrote on his official Facebook page. “But we cannot blame the player either.

“A player has a responsibility to himself and it is those fat cats of business that are grinning the most in this case. Nobody thinks of the fan.

“I’m tired of saying that today it seems to be more important to be a good businessman than a good president. This did not happen in my time. Too bad that FIFA continues to sleep.”

Higuain’s predicted move is likely to accelerate rumours surrounding Paul Pogba, with Manchester United reported to have reached an agreement with Juve to sign the France international for a world-record fee of close to €120m.

Higuain closes in on Juventus move as fee agreed

The Argentina international is edging nearer to a move to the Italian champions after 36 Serie A goals in 35 games for the Naples side last season

Gonzalo Higuain has undergone a medical with Juventus and agreed personal terms as he closes in on a move to the Serie A champions.

Goal understands the Bianconeri have agreed to pay the Argentina international’s €94 million release clause, with Napoli set to receive the money in two sets of €47m installments.

Higuain will sign a four year-contract with the Turin outfit, with his deal worth €7m-a-year.

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The transfer may pave the way for Paul Pogba’s world record move to Manchester United, with the Italian champions having funds left over to find a direct replacement.

Higuain’s 36 Serie A goals last season, in just 35 games, equalled an 87-year-record.

Napoli rejected Atletico bid of '€60m plus two or three players' for Higuain

The Argentina international is a wanted man this summer and his club have revealed they have already been forced to turn down one approach from Diego Simeone’s side

Napoli rejected an offer from Atletico Madrid of €60 million “plus two or three players” for Gonzalo Higuain, according to club president Aurelio De Laurentiis.

The Argentina international’s future has been the subject of intense speculation in recent weeks, with Atletico, Juventus and Arsenal all heavily linked with an interest.

Juve held talks with their Serie A rivals over the striker this week, though De Laurentiis – who is demanding that any suitors meet Higuain’s €94m release clause – claimed the deal was dead in the water.

Manchester United’s reported interest in Paul Pogba has reignited speculation that Juve could return with an offer close to that amount, but De Laurentiis remains convinced that the 28-year-old will stay after revealing he has already rejected a major bid from Atletico.

“Even if Juventus were to come back into the picture, they’d need Higuain’s consent,” he said. “You can’t profess yourself one of the curva, singing Napoli songs and then go to Napoli’s historic rival.

“The game of games has always been with Juventus. I haven’t spoken to Higuain, so all these suggestions are coming from different agendas within the media.

“The only offer I’ve had was from the Atletico president [Enrique Cerezo] a month ago and I told him we couldn’t do it. He offered me €60m plus two or three players and I said no.

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“Leaving would be a contradiction; Juve and Napoli are likes cats and dogs. It would be the height of absurdity if he did something like that.”

De Laurentiis did suggest that Napoli’s ambitions would not be damaged if they were to cash in on Higuain, however, as he outlined plans to make up to 10 signings ahead of next season.

“We’re working on various areas of the pitch,” he said, with the agent of Mainz defender Giulio Donati having already confirmed talks with the club.

“We’re after Donati and 10 others. We need a right-back – maybe it’d be better to have someone who can play either side – then we need one or two midfielders.

“Then we’ll see if we’ll need a replacement for Higuain or not. Even without Higuain, we came second in 2013.”

Betting Special: Can Arsenal beat Juventus to Higuain's signature?

Depsite reportedly already agreeing personal terms with the Argentina international, the Bianconeri’s refusal to meet Napoli’s asking price could open the door for Wenger’s team

Having scored 36 goals in 35 Serie A games for Napoli last season, Gonzalo Higuain’s stock has never been higher.

Considering elite goalscorers are one of the hardest commodities to come by in football, the striker is sure to be on plenty of shopping lists this summer.

However, while many Arsenal fans are hoping that Arsene Wenger will finally make the Argentina international the marquee signing they have long been craving, SkyBet currently have the Gunners down as 9/2 (5.50) outsiders to bring him to the Emirates this transfer window.

Instead, Juventus are priced at just even money (2.00) to keep last season’s Capocannoniere in Italy, having reportedly already agreed personal terms with the former Real Madrid man.

With Paul Pogba looking increasingly likely to make a record-breaking transfer to Manchester United this summer, money is not likely to represent an issue for the Bianconeri.

Nevertheless, Napoli’s refusal to accept anything less than the hefty €94 million release clause in the 28-year-old’s contract is sure to cause some consternation among the Juventus board, who have insisted they will not be held to ransom.

With the San Paolo outfit also unwilling to entertain the idea of any potential swap deal involving the likes of Roberto Pereyra or Simone Zaza, a move to Turin is far from a foregone conclusion.

Sadly for Arsenal fans, it is also difficult to imagine Wenger forking out the necessary funds to secure forward’s signature, meaning odds of 13/8 (2.63) could well prove a sensible bet on him remaining in Naples beyond the closure of the transfer window.

On the other hand, money has rarely been an issue for Chelsea, who can be backed at 12/1 (13.00) to sweep in and steal Higuain in a move that would upset not only the Blues’ London rivals, but also new manager Antonio Conte’s former club.

'Sell Pogba, buy Higuain' – Moggi tells Juventus how to improve Champions League chances

The former Juve chief has encouraged the Turin side to cash in on the France international and make a move for the Argentina striker

Former Juventus director Luciano Moggi believes the Italian champions should cash in on Paul Pogba in order to fund transfers for Gonzalo Higuain and Porto midfielder Hector Herrera.

Juventus have been linked with a move for Napoli striker and last season’s leading Serie A goalscorer Higuain as speculation regarding Pogba continues to mount amid interest from Manchester United.

United are reportedly ready to break the transfer record in order to lure the France international back to Old Trafford, with the money from that potential deal tipped to help in Juve’s pursuit of Higuain.

And Moggi has called on Juve to accept United’s offer as the Italian giants pursue Champions League glory.

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“The feeling I get is that Higuain will remain at Napoli,” Moggi told Radio Crc. “If I were Juventus, I’d have no doubts at all. I’d sell Pogba immediately and then straight away sign Higuain.

“I’d go to Porto, put Herrera in Pogba’s place and nobody could tell the difference.

“Higuain is a far more decisive player. The chances of winning the Champions League would increase and he’d represent a substantial change.”