Gonzalo Higuain’s move to Juventus was all set and completed two days ago, amidst claims of ‘betrayal’ from Aurelio De Laurentiis, the Naples club’s president. The player was unveiled to Juve supporters earlier today, and in his first meeting with the press he reiterated the fact that he was here to win the Champions League. And that he’d made the move because Juve is a ‘winning club’.
A backlash from Francesco Totti followed, who chose to use Higuain as an example to prove his point that players follow money, and not their hearts, in modern football. A true statement, but that didn’t make it any less hurtful for Juve fans.
De Laurentiis was probably laughing away the second after he told the press that he felt ‘betrayed’ by Higuain’s decision. $99 million dollars for a player that is at best one of the top 10 strikers in world football is still a lot of money. But, then again, his entire price tag is based on the record that he broke last season by scoring 36 Serie A goals—no one’s ever done that before.
However, the thing with records of that kind is, the player will probably not break it again after combining his forces with yours. No, that’s Messi/Ronaldo level. And De Laurentiis knows as well as anybody else Higuain is nowhere close to either of those aforementioned gentlemen.
The Napoli president played his part spectacularly; rejecting offers of up to £70 million from the likes of Arsenal to stick to his plan—don’t sell unless they meet the clause. It takes a lot of guts to make that decision. Will he regret it later? Should he have sold him for that price? Will the clubs now decide to look elsewhere to meet their goal-scoring needs? They’re all viable questions that are sure to increase doubt in a normal person’s mind.
But De Laurentiis stood his ground. The release clause was mighty, but Napoli would do just fine if they didn’t sell Higuain, and in fact, that was probably the plan that brought out Aurelio’s shrewd business tactics. Then, in a sense, the plan backfired in a good way.
Juventus, on the other hand, had been one of the most active clubs in transfer market, making signing after signing, all for relatively low cost, or in some cases, free. The defence, specifically, got a boost that was completely unnecessary but nevertheless made it stronger, as Dani Alves arrived for free from Barcelona, while Medhi Benatia joined up on loan from Bayern Munich.
Miralem Pjanic’s arrival gave a new dynamic to Juve’s midfield, as the Bosnian exclusively provides the creativity that was found slightly missing in some of Juve’s games. Pogba’s phenomenal, but the guy’s got too much on his plate. As he himself said, he wants to “do everything…defend, attack, score, give assists, tackle, win back the ball.”
These somewhat pretentious objectives set by Mr. Pogba has resulted in him getting caught up in too many things during the 2015/16 season. He was not always linking up with Dybala. He was not always tracking back and helping out Juve’s BBC in defence. The combination of both roles forced him into becoming a sub standardized version of himself, which, earlier in the season, was reportedly due to the no. 10 shirt that he was assigned. However, one thing that was clear was that Juve’s midfield did not have that ingenuity capable of unlocking defences. It was rather through sheer force and willpower that they won most of their games. Most of the goals came from set plays, Dybala knocking in a few wonders, and a creative contribution from Pogba every now and then. The team was working harder, not smarter.
Miralem Pjanic’s arrival will provide exactly that smartness in Juve’s attack. Here’s a guy who will always be looking for that one-two with Juve’s little Argentinian, needless to say he will also be the dominant force in Juve’s passing game, and virtually guarantees quality service to the centre-forwards. And through this process, the weight on Pogba’s shoulders will become much more tolerable.
But Pjanic was only one piece of the puzzle for Juve. They still needed a quality centre-forward to partner Dybala up front. Morata had been called back to his parent club, as Real Madrid ruthlessly exorcised the buy-back clause in his contract. Mandzukic is a one-trick pony (physicality) and is definitely not somebody you’d want to lead your line in a, say, UCL Final.
Juventus needed to make a statement this transfer season. Serie A is basically theirs for the taking. But now, they were going to go full force after Champions League glory. And they needed a world-class centre-forward that can give them the edge they need.
Somehow, the name of Gonzalo Higuain, the player known for his voodoo in finals, ended up on the top of the pile in their wishlist. This was probably more down to the fact that there aren’t that many quality centre-forwards in the game, and Higuain was probably the best option of the ones that were ‘available’.
€94.7 million is the new record when it comes to centre-forwards. Coincidentally, that figure is also higher than what a Champions League trophy (€90m) would give you in prize money. It is also nearly 30% of Juve’s annual revenue.
These are just some of the reasons why a deal looked so unlikely to happen. And it is also why this deal just made a huge statement of Juve’s intent.
Meanwhile, Napoli have already agreed a deal to sign Arkadiusz Milik from Ajax, and they will probably be looking to make a few more substantial signings with their new transfer kitty. If they spend it well on the right players, Juventus may not have the easiest of run-ins during the upcoming Serie A season. Gonzalo Higuain is no Messi. He’s just a centre-forward with an appetite for goals. And Juventus just spent €94.7 million on a 28-year old that potentially already had his peak.
De Laurentiis is probably laughing as hard as he’s ever laughed. But, secretly, he’s already planning a campaign that will exceed the achievements of the previous.