As I type these words out on my laptop, Chelsea are in the final stages of negotiations with Juventus over the loan deal that will send Gonzalo Higuaín, “El Pipita” to Stamford Bridge for the remainder of the season.
Both Dominic Fifield of the Guardian and Matt Law of The Telegraph have written on the specifics of the deal that will see the Argentinian forward move from his current loan at AC Milan to Chelsea. Chelsea will have Higuaín on a 6-month loan with the option to make the deal permanent if certain goal incentives are met by the player. Also, reports speculate that Chelsea will have an option to extend the player’s loan for the entirety of the 2019/2020 season.
The signing of Higuaín has raised many eyebrows from around the world of football. The deal marks a distinct shift in Chelsea’s transfer policy that has previously forbidden signing or extending contracts for players older than 30. Chelsea would typically be inclined to wait until the summer to pursue a player such as Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi – a younger player who could provide a long term solution to the club’s desperate striker needs. Maurizio Sarri, however, desperate to bring goals to Stamford Bridge, has demanded that the club bring in a consistent striker who is familiar with his unique style of play. There is only one forward in the world available who fits this mold: Gonzalo Higuaín.
Although Higuaín is in the twilight of his career, his best season came under Maurizio Sarri at Napoli. After being transferred to Napoli from Real Madrid, Higuaín was skeptical of the withered, cigarette-smoking, Italian manager. In his typical, matter-of-fact way of speaking, Sarri was very critical of Higuaín after his first Napoli training session: “You’re too lazy. If you don’t change your attitude you won’t become the best center forward in the world.”
Sarri ran Higuaín through the gauntlet, forcing him to get in shape and adapt to his unique system that resembles a fast-paced, vertical tiki-taka. In no time, Higuaín was scoring for fun. With his Napoli teammates like Jorginho, Hamsik, Insigne, and Mertens feeding him the ball, Higuaín transformed from a sluggish central forward to a viper on the ball.
Playing under Sarri at Napoli in the 2015/2016 season, Higuaín set a Serie A goal scoring record of 36 goals in 35 matches. The goals he scored were the result of intricate build up that was capped off by Higuaín’s inspired finishing.
Take a few minutes to watch some of the goals from his unbelievable season to appreciate just how good he was. Take notice, as well, of the intricate build-up that led to his chances. It is “Sarriball” at its finest.
Both Sarri and Higuaín formed an intimate relationship that was born from their success on the pitch. Relying on the skills of one another, Sarri was able to deploy the best team of his managerial career, and Higuaín found his best form. Both characters became legends of Napoli who were deeply admired by their passionate supporters.
Sarri spoke earlier in the season about how much he misses having Higauín at his disposal: "It was perfect synchronicity and the regrets will probably stick with us. I miss Higuain a great deal. I miss him because he’ll keep scoring goals until the day he dies. He is a goal machine, a systematic and automatic jackpot."
Check out this video of Napoli’s Higuaín chant before kick-off in a Champions League Match. I mean how badass is this?
Chelsea fans are desperate for the Argentinian to find even half the form he had during his time at Napoli. If Chelsea are going to capitalize on their current 6 point lead over Arsenal between 4th and 5th place, they are going to need to start scoring. With an injury ridden Tottenham lying only one point ahead, Chelsea have a great opportunity over the next few weeks to solidify their place in the top four. Their success will rely on Hazard’s health and Higuain’s production.
Having a confident, clinical striker will allow Eden Hazard to return to his best position on the left side of the attack. Not only will Hazard regain the freedom to attack down the wing, but he will also have a dominant target in the box. Hazard, who currently leads the Premier League in assists, which is impressive considering he has Willian and Morata playing beside him, will be lethal when played with an actual goal scoring threat in Higuaín. Higuaín is someone who will be ready to take first-touch shots and dominate the air. Someone who will not be floundering in a heap every time a Huddersfield defender taps him on the arm.
Speaking of Morata, the Spaniard is likely to complete a permanent move to Atletico Madrid this January. He will be replacing the injury-ridden Diego Costa who has been out for the majority of this season. Morata will be leaving Chelsea as yet another big money import to the Premier League who caught fire in his first half-season but who has done little since. Morata’s biggest problem at Chelsea was an inability to mentally prepare himself from week to week. Whether he was fretting over the previous week’s missed chances or he was shuddering under the pressure of being Chelsea’s lone striker, his fragile mentality was blocking his path to success. He will see a return to Spain as a fresh start for his career.