The Argentine has announced his intention to leave Real Madrid this summer following reduced first-team opportunities, with Arsenal and Juventus both interested
By Martin Langer
Few players have been so criticised and, yet, so effective as Gonzalo Higuain at Real Madrid. Since his arrival at los Blancos, aged 19, the striker caused controversy with the €12 million transfer fee that the board, then led by Ramon Calderon, paid for a then-unknown Argentinian youngster who failed to impress during his first season at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Now, after over half a decade and with 122 Madrid goals, Higuain’s value is up for debate again, only this time the Spanish side look set to be doing the selling, with Juventus and Arsenal having already made moves for the striker.
Back when he arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu in the 2006-07 season, Higuain scored just two goals in his 19 league outings and fans were soon calling his for head. To many, his spell at the club was nearing an end before truly even starting.
However, the career of ‘Pipita’ was just taking off; he found the net eight times in 25 league games in his second term – he never scored less than 10 goals again – and three times topped the twenty-goal mark.
Nevertheless, he was never a stalwart for the team. His best season, 2009-10 was the only time he could have been considered a surefire starter, a status that was promptly erased after the departure of Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho’s arrival. Since then, Higuain has had to share duties with Karim Benzema, whom Madrid fans always considered more talented but less committed.
At the end of the 2011-12 season, ‘Pipita’ handed in a transfer request. Mourinho convinced him to stay with the promise of more first-team minutes, but those never materalised. The Argentine striker started 10 games less and scored eight goals less than the previous season.
So, at the end of the last game against Osasuna, he announced his irrevocable decision. “I’m leaving Real Madrid. I have spent seven years here and my decision is not rash. I never took anything for granted here and always had to fight to get what I wanted. I came for €12m and will be sold for a lot more. I’ve accomplished a lot here.”
The problem is, it is one thing for Higuain to reveal his intention to leave the Bernabeu but quite another for Madrid to facilitate it. After the announcement, president Florentino Perez insisted no player would leave easily if the club were not keen to sell and immediately put a €30m [£25.5m] price-tag on the striker, far more than the €18m [£15.3m] that, initially, Juventus were willing to offer.
From that moment on, Higuain’s situation has become more complicated and rumours have linked him with a new potential suitor each week. The Serie A champions remain the most likely destination, and reports in both Italy and Spain indicate that negotiations between the two clubs and the player have progressed, albeit at a very slow pace. In fact, the only offer that the striker has accepted is from the Turin outfit.
At the same time, the stalling discussions have allowed other parties to express an interest, such as the case of Arsenal who, as revealed by Goal, have made an enquiry for Higuain, and are willing to break the £20m [€23.5m] barrier to secure the striker. The Gunners, though, are not prepared to cough up the €30m Perez is asking for.
It must also be noted that Real Madrid are still searching for Jose Mourinho’s replacement, whether it be Carlo Ancelotti or whoever else, to rule on the matter. The forward market is expensive, possible suitable replacements are sparse. For example, Robert Lewandowski may be at the peak of his powers but it is worth considering selling a player that has already acclimated to the team and the city and replace him with someone who could suffer to adapt to a new league and the high-pressure environment in place at Madrid.
At the same time, Higuain has shown in his years with los Blancos that he is a very good striker, physically strong and with a huge heart, but just not a superstar. What Madrid need now are players that can, at least, boost the confidence of their fans and promise to help the team take a step forward. The Argentine fits that bill.
However, he is keen to try his luck elsewhere. Madrid will likely sell the striker to the highest bidder due to his stronger reputation elsewhere than with the club itself. So, it should come as no surprise that we will soon wake up to the news that ‘Pipita’ has packed his bags and is setting sail for Italy or England.