Player Profile - Gonzalo Higuain

Hitman Higuain Hitting Top Gear 

Personal information
Full name: Gonzalo Gerardo Higuaín
Date of birth: 10 December 1987 
Age: 28
Place of birth: Brest, France
Height: 1.84 m (6 ft 1⁄2 in) 
Playing position: Striker

Club information
Current team: Napoli
Number: 9

Youth career
1999–2005: River Plate

Senior career
2005–2007: River Plate 41 Appearances, 15 goals
2007–2013: Real Madrid 264 Appearances, 121 goals 
2013– Napoli 132 Appearances, 79 goals

National career
2008: Argentina U23 1 Appearances, 2 goals
2009– Argentina 54 Appearances, 25 goals  

His style of play may be unfashionable but Gonzalo Higuaín is scoring a goal a game in Serie A and is driving Napoli towards their first Scudetto since 1990. Higuaín is in the form of his life and scoring goals at will as the Argentine continues to set the pace at the head of the ESM Golden Shoe standings. 

The 28-year-old has bounced back from a rough spell that started during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, where he made headlines with his poor play and a crucial miss in the final. Had he scored, Argentina may have beaten Germany. One year later, the same thing happened during the 2015 Copa America, and once again, the Albiceleste came up short, this time against hosts Chile. Higuain's reputation took an enormous hit, and many casual fans of the sport thought his best days were well behind him.  But he kept scoring at a reasonable rate for Napoli, and in 2015-16, he has kicked into a new gear. Higuain once again looks back to his old self, terrorising defences with his surprising mobility, superb instincts and lethal finishing ability. His hot form has understandably led to transfer speculation, although the Argentinian seems unlikely to leave the Partenopei anytime soon. Napoli have been battling it out for the Serie A title for years, and all that hard work could finally be rewarded this season, as the team currently lead the standings. Higuain seems happy in Napoli, where he's the biggest star of the team and wide men like Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens play in his service. Perhaps the player could be tempted by a move to the Premier League and the likely wage increase that would come with it, but in all likelihood, he'll stay in Italy for the time being.

Higuain seemed to be the archetypal Argentinian striker – robust yet technically assured – when he first arrived in European football at Real Madrid, but he got off to an inauspicious beginning in Spain, scoring just twice in his first year in La Liga. Gradually he matured and scored a very respectable tally, yet there was a short-termism about his time with the club. He wasn’t a big name, and those without big names usually have to work harder to justify their presence among the Galácticos. Karim Benzema’s £24.5m arrival at the Bernabeu in 2009 precipitated an erosion of Higuain’s status, he was evidently not as flashy as the Frenchman, nor was he as highly regarded. Higuain’s subordination to Benzema at Real Madrid was not dissimilar to his treatment at international level, where he has generally been viewed as a useful talent, albeit one that can get in the way of icons. In fairness to him, it is hard to shine when you have Lionel Messi standing adjacent to you, and Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez vying for your place. As such, when evaluating Higuain’s pre-Napoli days, it is worth imagining the frustration he must have felt at being so obviously talented yet so unable to derive the correct value from that talent. There was always somebody better. 

His first two years in Naples were a showcase of that frustration. His every performance resembled a release of pent-up hostility. After years of being second best, he was now the star. But with that tag came new responsibility. Napoli signed him for €38m, a club record fee. He was given a contract of €5.5m per year. People were discussing his potential impact in the same sentences as they remembered the effect his legendary compatriot Diego Maradona had on the club in the 1980s. It was an uphill task to merely live up to his billing, never mind exceed it, and the pressure began to spill out on to the pitch. Maurizio Sarri, with just one season of Serie A experience before his appointment, has unlocked the Higuaín that has never fully materialised. The Argentine has reached a new level under his new coach. In his first season in Italy he scored 17 goals; in his second he went one better. Having just passed the halfway mark of this term, “Pipita” has already blitzed both of those tallies. He is on course for the most productive season of his career. His anger continues to simmer throughout his play, but he is less of a chore to play alongside. He is finally channelling his emotion, inflicting it upon opposition defences. In many games he has been simply irrepressible. 

The clamour signifies a growing acceptance that Higuain has definitively made the leap from sub-elite to truly world class. He is no longer the other man or the choker. He is in the spotlight and he’s revelling. Thanks to a perfect symbiosis of his individual characteristics and Sarri’s tactics, he is driving Napoli forward in their charge to win a first Scudetto since 1990. With or without the league title, Higuaín’s form this season has deservedly thrown him to the forefront of the conversation regarding the world’s finest Numbers 9’s. Functional and unashamedly orthodox, his progression is a testament to the conventional.