Ronaldo is the best ever and I’ve watched two million of his goals – Higuain

Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain considers goalscoring to be “an obligation” and admits to modelling his game on Brazil icon Ronaldo.

The legendary World Cup winner was one of the finest performers on the planet when Higuain was growing up, with his power, pace and finishing ability landing him three World Player of the Year awards.

Higuain & Argentina 9/1 for WC

Higuain is now a member of the global striking elite, with the Argentine frontman having proven himself through the years at River Plate, Real Madrid, Napoli and now in Turin.

He has close to 300 goals to his name for club and country, and concedes that he is the player he is today due to his determination to learn from the best in his younger years.

The 29-year-old told The Guardian on his admiration for Ronaldo: “I’ve watched two million of his goals.

“For me, he’s the best ever, by a big margin.”

Gonzalo Higuain Ronaldo the best

Higuain shares the all-encompassing desire to terrorise defenders which helped Ronaldo to the top of his chosen profession, with the Juve star fully aware of what is expected of him.

Pressed on whether he considers the art of goal-scoring to be an obsession, he said: “No, not that. More like an obligation. It’s traditional that you score goals as a striker.”

Higuain has generated some sizeable transfer fees during his career with Juve paying Napoli €90 million for his services in 2016, but the South American is happy to embrace the pressure which accompanies being a big-money striker.

He added: “Football for me is the most ever-changing sport in the world.

“Because you can go seven games in a row, scoring in all of them, then you don’t score for two games and already you’re doing badly. You’re in crisis.

Gonzalo Higuain, Juventus, Serie A, 09092017

“But that’s what happens to people who are strong at what they do, right? Everyone gets used to seeing you score lots of goals, and then when you don’t score for two games they get surprised. That’s actually a rather beautiful thing, it’s cute.

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“So, like I say, for me football is ever-changing. But, yes, it is still fun.”

Higuain netted 32 times for Juve in his debut campaign, helping them to the Serie A title, a Coppa Italia triumph and the final of the Champions League.

He already has two efforts in four games this season and will be hoping to add to that tally when the Bianconeri open their 2017-18 European quest with a heavyweight meeting with Barcelona at Camp Nou on Tuesday.

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Will Gonzalo Higuain Win the Capocannoniere This Season?

Source: Gonzalo Higuain on Twitter

Gonzalo Higuain has been a massive success in Serie A. One of the best strikers in the world, the Argentina international has taken his game to a whole new level since leaving Real Madrid in the summer of 2013. The 29-year-old scored 121 goals in 264 matches for Madrid from 2007 until 2013, but there was always the feeling that he took far too many chances to find the net and simply did not do enough in big matches.

That cannot be said about the Higuain, who has been gracing Italy for the past four years. The 29-year-old took his game to the next level at Napoli during his three years at the Neapolitan club, scoring goals after goals in Serie A. The former River Plate star replaced Edinson Cavani almost seamlessly at Napoli in 2013, and guided them to third, fifth and second-place finishes during his three years at the Stadio San Paolo. It was in his final season at Napoli that Higuain broke a record in Italy, becoming the first player to score 36 goals in a Serie A campaign, one more than Gunnar Nordahl did for AC Milan back in the 1949-50 season.

Juventus came calling in the summer of 2016 and snapped up Higuain for a whooping £75.3 million. The 29-year-old did not disappoint in his debut season at the Allianz Stadium, playing a key role in Massimiliano Allegri’s winning Series A and progressing to the Champions League final. The Argentine scored 24 goals and provided three assists in 32 Serie A starts for Juve last season, and scored five goals and provided one assist in 12 appearances in the Champions League.

Source: Fabio Cannavaro on Twitter

As with recent seasons, Juventus are the favourites to win Serie A and have the best squad in Italy. Although AC Milan have been splashing the cash in the summer transfer window and AS Roma and Napoli remain strong threats, it would take a brave man to bet against Juventus winning the Scudetto for an unprecedented seventh season in a row. This is not to say that the Turin giants will not lose the odd game or two – and you can check out the live sports betting feature to wager on their individual matches – but it is hard to see the Bianconeri lose their stranglehold on the title.

Although one suspects that Higuain will be delighted to have played an important role in Juventus winning the Scudetto as well as reaching the final of the Champions League, deep inside he will be disappointed not to have won the topscorer’s award in Serie A. Having won the Capocannoniere with Napoli, notching 36 goals in the process, in 2015-16, he will have frustrated to see Edin Dzeko of AS Roma clinch the Golden Boot in the Italian top flight with 29 goals last season.

Higuain, though, will be confident of reclaiming the Golden Boot from the former Manchester City striker this season. With hugely creative and dynamic players such as Miralem Pjanic, Juan Cuadrado, Douglas Costa and Paulo Dybala around him, Higuain will get chances. The Argentine has matured immensely as a footballer over the last four years and become more clinical. If Higuain remains fit, then he will certainly have a very good chance of winning the Serie A Golden Boot this season.

Ronaldo, Messi & the candidates to finish top-scorer in the 2017-18 Champions League


COMMENT


Over the course of the last decade, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have held a duopoly over football’s individual prizes. Ballon d’Or, FIFA Best Player, Golden Boots – you name it; they won it.

The top scorer in the Champions League is no different. The last 10 editions have been made the pair’s own personal dominion. Even when their teams have not been close to winning the competition, the rivals’ individual exploits have remained of the highest standard.

As such, this is a list that could easily contain just two names, for the odds are that one of the illustrious duo will claim the honours. However, both are now the wrong side of 30 and their control must surely wane at some stage.

Goal takes a look at the players in with a chance of winning the award this year (with their goal tally of last season in brackets).


ROMELU LUKAKU (N/A)


Romelu Lukaku Manchester United

Manchester United’s marquee summer signing, Romelu Lukaku has performed with great promise for Jose Mourinho’s men in the opening weeks of the season.

The former Everton man has found the net in all of his competitive matches thus far and looks a fine focal point for the Portuguese’s direct style.

His lack of Champions League experience will count against him, though United will be hopeful of enjoying a significant run into the knockout stages, which should give him plenty of time to adapt, and shine.


HARRY KANE (2)


Harry Kane Tottenham

Harry Kane has finished as the Premier League’s leading marksman in each of the last two seasons and will seek to transfer his form across to Europe in the coming weeks.

Injury prevented him from playing a major part as Spurs crashed out at the group stages last season and he remains largely untested at this level as a result.

For the England international to stand a chance of finishing as the competition’s top scorer, he needs his club to cause an upset or two along the way.


LUIS SUAREZ (3)


Luis Suarez Real Madrid Barcelona Supercopa 16082017

Controversy might have followed Luis Suarez at every turn, but so too have goals. The Uruguay hitman has been a regular on the scoresheet in La Liga, where he netted 40 times only two seasons ago, and since signing for Barcelona three years ago he has 18 in the Champions League.

Neymar’s departure may weaken the side as a whole, but it strengthens the former Liverpool man’s chances of finishing the competition as top scorer, as he will become more of a focal point of the attack – even if Messi remains the main man.


ALVARO MORATA (3)


Alvaro Morata Chelsea 2017

Alvaro Morata has had a somewhat uncomfortable start to life at Chelsea, missing a crucial penalty in the Community Shield then squandering a fine chance in the London derby against Tottenham. In between times, however, he nearly inspired an unlikely comeback against Burnley.

In time, however, the Spaniard is expected to prove himself worth the £70 million fee his club paid this summer to Real Madrid, and all will be forgotten if he hits a prolific rhythm in the Champions League.

He is certainly capable of it, as he has shown in the past with important goals for both Real and Juventus.


NEYMAR (4)


Neymar Marco Verratti PSG Toulouse Ligue 1 20082017

Signed for €222m from Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain have made Neymar the world’s most expensive player. Their aim is to launch a successful push for the Champions League, and the Brazilian attacker is expected to be to the forefront.

He has started with immense promise in Ligue 1, scoring three times in his first two appearances, yet he may have to share the scoring spotlight with centre forward Edinson Cavani.

Neymar is the only player other than Messi or Ronaldo to have held this honour in the last 10 years, albeit finishing joint leading marksman with the pair in 2014-15. 


DRIES MERTENS (5)


Dries Mertens Napoli

Dries Mertens represents an intriguing outside bet as top scorer, having absolutely exploded with Napoli last season by scoring 28 Serie A goals.

The Belgian was immensely impressive following back-to-back hat-tricks in December, having scored only three times in the first 15 matches of the 2016-17 campaign.

There’s been no looking back for the 30-year-old since then and he will be aiming to better his tally of five strikes, which was achieved in last season’s European run to the last 16.


GONZALO HIGUAIN (5)


Gonzalo Higuain Juventus

Juventus have been the nearly men of the Champions League over the course of the last three seasons. Twice they have reached the final and twice they have finished as runners-up. 

Gonzalo Higuain was central to their run to Cardiff last season, scoring five times for the Turin giants, and the Argentine is bound to be vital to them as they aim to better that effort.

The 29-year-old now has a wealth of experience to call upon and proved with his double in the semi-final first-leg win at Monaco that he could become a man for the big occasion.


KYLIAN MBAPPE (6)


Kylian Mbappe Monaco 2017

Whether he’s at Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid by the time the group stage starts, all eyes will be on Kylian Mbappe, the 18-year-old attacker who made such an impressive breakthrough last season.

Already he has shown an incredible eye for goal, but the summer’s transfer saga seems to be working against him at present. The season is long, though, giving him the opportunity to bounce back in a competition in which he has already excelled.


ANTOINE GRIEZMANN (6)


Antoine Griezmann Atletico Madrid Napoli Audi Cup

Atletico Madrid are not Europe’s most spectacular side, but they are one of the most functional and their leading attacker remains Antoine Griezmann.

In spite of a transfer ban, which has hampered the Spanish outfit this summer, he has shunned interest from Manchester United and will again be a key figure for Diego Simeone’s side.

Perhaps moving to their new stadium will inspire them to finally get over their ‘curse’, which has seen them lose two finals in four years. If that is to be the case, Griezmann will be key.


PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (7)


Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Borussia Dortmund

Prolific in the Bundesliga for Dortmund, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has gradually been building a reputation as one of the most dangerous strikers in world football. Blessed with searing pace, he has been forced to develop the finishing skills that have made him such a threat.

Now 28 and approaching the peak of his powers, if Dortmund are going to have a successful run in Europe, it will probably be because of the French-born striker’s excellence. He scored seven times in last season’s competition but remains a long shot. 


ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI (8)


Robert Lewandowski Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich have long been one of the continent’s leading forces, and there is little doubt that their most potent threat is Robert Lewandowski. Since arriving at the Allianz Arena in 2014-15, he has scored 23 times in three European campaigns, managing nearly a goal per game.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side perennially reach the knockout stages of the competition and have expectations of pushing to win the competition. If they are to get their hands on Europe’s greatest prize, the 29-year-old Poland star will need to find the net regularly.


LIONEL MESSI (11)


Lionel Messi Barcelona

Lionel Messi won the European Golden Boot last term, netting 37 times in La Liga. This was comfortably the best record on the continent in domestic play, far eclipsing Ronaldo, but Barcelona’s status has taken something of a tumble over the summer.

If the Catalans are to go deep in the competition, it seems that they will have to be carried by the Argentine more than ever. Messi has finished as the Champions League top scorer on five occasions, but not since 2011-12 has he been the outright leading marksman.


CRISTIANO RONALDO (12)


Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid 2017

Ronaldo starts the season as clear favourite to win the prize. Indeed, his scoring record in the Champions League has been unparalleled for the last five years. No-one has scored more than the Portuguese in any individual edition since 2011-12 – joint first is the worst he has finished.

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He has scored 67 goals in total over these last five years, in which his Real Madrid side have won the title three times. Zinedine Zidane’s men look stronger than anyone else heading into the new campaign, having become the first side to defend the Champions League last season, so both the Blancos and Ronaldo are well placed to retain their respective titles.

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Juventus 3 Cagliari 0: Buffon saves Serie A’s first VAR penalty in comfortable win

Gianluigi Buffon saved a penalty awarded via VAR as Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala & Gonzalo Higuain scored in Juventus’ win over Cagliari.

Gianluigi Buffon added to his legendary status in Italian football by saving the first penalty awarded via VAR in Serie A as Juventus began their title defence with a 3-0 home win over Cagliari.

Veteran Juve skipper and Italy international Buffon denied Diego Farias from 12 yards after on-field official Fabio Maresca used video technology to award Cagliari a first-half spot-kick following Alex Sandro’s tackle from behind on Duje Cop.

It proved a costly miss for Massimo Rastelli’s side, who were already trailing to the champions following Mario Mandzukic’s opener in the 12th minute.

Paulo Dybala added to Cagliari’s frustrations when he picked out the top corner on the stroke of half-time, with calls for handball in the build-up from the visitors ignored by the referee.

Argentina international Dybala was denied a second by the crossbar early in the second half, but compatriot Gonzalo Higuain got on the scoreboard as Juve bounced back from their Supercoppa Italiana defeat to Lazio in fine fashion.

Blaise Matuidi was handed a Juve debut from the bench after completing his €20million move from Paris Saint-Germain on Friday, getting 20 minutes to help see out a 38th successive Serie A home match without defeat for Massimiliano Allegri’s men.

Miralem Pjanic curled an excellent free-kick narrowly wide, but Juve only had to wait until the 12th minute for the opening goal. Mandzukic guided a lovely right-footed volley from Stephan Lichtsteiner’s right-wing cross beyond Alessio Cragno to put Juve ahead.

Paolo Farago fired over after Buffon saved a powerful shot from Farias before Cagliari had a fantastic chance to equalise when referee Maresca awarded them a penalty following a video review of Sandro’s tackle on Cop.

Farias stuttered in his run-up and placed a poor spot-kick close enough to Buffon for him to save, and Juve punished the visitors further by adding to their tally before the break.

Pjanic sent an exquisite pass down the middle for Dybala, who was deemed to have controlled with his chest before beating Cragno with a fine finish into the top-right corner.

Within two minutes of the restart Dybala came agonisingly close to his second when, at the end of a flowing move, his cross-goal strike bounced down and out off the bar, with Mandzukic’s follow-up header held by Cragno.

Farago volleyed a rare opportunity for Cagliari over the top of Buffon’s goal, and Higuain showed him how to finish five minutes later.

At the end of a brilliant move involving substitute Sami Khedira and Sandro, Higuain placed a cross-goal shot through the legs of Marco Andreolli and into the bottom-right corner.

The Argentine was replaced by debutant Matuidi in the 70th minute, while Douglas Costa made his first Serie A appearance since joining from Bayern Munich by replacing Juan Cuadrado.

Dybala drilled narrowly wide at the end of a sweeping move in the 93rd minute, but Juve had already done enough to begin their bid for a seventh successive Scudetto with three points.

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Icardi or Higuain? Serie A’s Capocanniere battle will define who leads Argentina at the World Cup


COMMENT


The race between Juventus hitman Gonzalo Higuain and Inter’s young captain Mauro Icardi for this year’s Serie A top scorer gong will prove to be one of the most intriguing subplots of the Italian season. But the Capocannoniere battle may just hold a greater prize for the winner.

Higuain 2/1 to score 2+ Saturday

Higuain and Icardi are both gunning for a place on the Argentina plane to Russia in June 2018, and their records in front of goal over the next season will have a direct bearing on who gets the nod as Jorge Sampaoli’s main man up front.

The ex-Sevilla coach has already ruffled feathers amongst the Albiceleste flock. His first squad marked Icardi’s first call-up for over three years, snubbing one of the sacred cows for previous trainers in the shape of Sergio Aguero. For the upcoming qualifiers against Uruguay and Venezuela which kick off in Montevideo later this month, Sampaoli has made another momentous decision.

Icardi retains his place, and rejoins a competitive Argentina squad right where he left off – his debut came in a dead rubber World Cup qualifier in Montevideo against Uruguay in November 2013, when all observers were given to believe he was the future of the No. 9 jersey. Aguero too has regained his place, leaving Higuain out in the cold for two decisive matches in the quest to make Russia 2018.

“Higuain will not be there in Montevideo, just like in Rio de Janeiro and Santiago.” Twitter was abuzz with such comments when the squad was made public and Higuain’s absence confirmed. The Juventus man has become the living embodiment of Argentina’s failure to push on and win against Germany in the 2014 final and in consecutive Copa America deciders against Chile, exposing him to social media ridicule.

PS quotes

A similar no-show in June’s Champions League final has only heightened the feeling that the burly forward goes missing when the stakes are highest, casting a shadow on a fine debut season for Juve that yielded 24 Serie A goals and saw him finish just shy of Edin Dzeko for the Capocanniere. That the spotlight is on him again is in no doubt: a scathing editorial in Tuttosport following Supercoppa defeat at the hands of Lazio called the Argentine an “aircraft carrier in a marina, he does not move and his manoeuvres are limited… it’s humiliating that someone like him did not make a mark on the match.”

Icardi, on the other hand, knows how to cope when the going gets tough. At just 22 he was handed the Inter captaincy, and has been a rock for the Nerazzurri in what have been seasons of underachievement and near-chaos. His performances in 2016-17 tell an eloquent story: forced to push the team forward almost single-handedly in a campaign where three coaches came and went, and even facing calls from his own fans to quit due to revelations in his autobiography, Icardi smashed 24 goals in 34 Serie A games to match Higuain and help Inter to seventh place.

We may never know if the forward, still only 24, was held back internationally due to claims he was a ‘traitor’ in getting together with Wanda Nara, the exuberant Argentine model previously married to former team-mate Maxi Lopez. The gossip mill has long held that Lionel Messi vetoed his inclusion on the grounds he was a potentially disruptive presence in the dressing room (and in deference to Lopez, a friend of the Argentina captain), but Sampaoli has seemingly had few problems in overturning that prohibition almost as soon as he walked into the job.

What is certain is that the young Inter captain has shown admirable loyalty to his club, staying put through one of the worst periods in their history, and that he is dying to show what he is worth for the national team.

PS quotes

“My dear Argentina, today after four years we meet again,” he wrote on his Instagram page after receiving the call.

“The last time I wore these colours was in that distant 2013, fulfilling the dream of making my debut in the senior team aged just 20, thanks to my work and sacrifice.

“Today, four years later, I get this beautiful news, to be able to wear the most beautiful jersey in the world, which represents each of us, the Argentines, our country. That is why today I thank all those who trusted me. I do not like making promises, but of one thing I am sure: I will do everything for you, my dear Argentina.”

It will be Icardi’s responsibility to back up those words with actions when Argentina take the field against Uruguay and Venezuela. Higuain, meanwhile, will have to bide his time and send a message to Sampaoli that he still has plenty to offer at the highest level.

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Winning the Capocanniere would be a great start, but there too he will meet with fierce competition from his younger rival. Pipita has to show his mettle in big games, while Icardi will be forced to demonstrate his dressing room loyalty; but first and foremost Argentina want goals, and it is on that criteria that the No. 9 jersey for Russia will ultimately be decided.

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