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Tuesday September 12 2017
Higuain's big game baggage

When Juventus visit Barcelona tonight, Gonzalo Higuain will carry the baggage of being a big game flop, writes Emmet Gates.

Reports emanating from Italy last week suggest Gonzalo Higuain is currently in a ‘fired up’ mood. Dropped from the Argentina squad for the latest round of qualifying games in favour of Inter’s Mauro Icardi has seemingly sprung the 29-year-old striker into action.

This season represents a make or break campaign for Higuain: to once and for all prove the naysayers wrong about his temperament in the biggest games, to banish his lengthy list of critics who sneer at the suggestion that he’s a world class striker.

His opening season in Turin was both a success and a failure, depending on how you interpret it. Higuain scored 24 goals in Serie A, and 32 goals in all competitions, a decent return on an overinflated €90m investment, one might say, the kind you’d be happy with from playing one of the games available at ChanceHill.

Yet dig a little deeper under the surface and the stats can be a little misleading.

In four games against Milan and Inter he failed to find the net.  On the other hand, many could point to his three strikes over the course of two Turin derbies and his winners against old club Napoli and nearest title challengers Roma as proof of his ability to score when it matters most.

The crux of the matter is that how Higuain performs in the league is essentially immaterial. He wasn’t bought to land Juventus another league title: The Old Lady has been lifting the scudetto on auto-pilot mode for the last several years. Juve triggered his release clause at Napoli to help them win the big one, the Champions League. This is where Higuain, when his time at Juventus inevitably draws to a close, will eventually be judged. And so far, the verdict isn’t good.

A group containing fairly average opposition in the shape of Sevilla, Dinamo Zagreb and Lyon saw Higuain score three goals, including a penalty against the French side. As the knockout stages began and as Juve advanced, Higuain’s contributions were few and far between, and he continually looked like an expensive passenger as Porto and Barcelona were swept aside.

Higuain offered little in attack and meandered through games, seemingly paralyzed by fear, following years of criticism for not doing enough, the difference between the Higuain of Serie A and the European counterpart like night and day.

When he dispatched Dani Alves’ beautiful backheel into the bottom corner of the Monaco net in the first leg of the semi-final, he broke a four-year drought in the decisive phase of the tournament. His tally of four knockout goals in 27 games is remarkably poor for a player of his ability.

Despite an assist for Mario Mandzukic’s wonderful-but-ultimately-insignificant goal in the Final, Higuain put in an abject display. Former Juve midfielder and Champions League winner Angelo Di Livio was particularly scathing in his assessment of Higuain’s performance in Cardiff. “Who disappointed me the most? Certainly Higuain. I was expecting a lot from Pipita, or at least something more in terms of his technical quality and hunger for goals. Higuain is the one who made the biggest impression on me in a negative way.”

Whilst no one in black and white could’ve held their head high after the catastrophic collapse in the second half, this was another final in which he had failed to make his mark, yet another poor performance to add to the ever-growing list that have blighted his reputation over the course of the decade, seemingly a striker with huge mental baggage.

Higuain is fast running out of time to avenge the failures in his career. He turns 30 in December, so whilst not exactly over the hill territory, if his European displays don’t show remarkable improvement on last year’s, Juventus may just start to survey the scene and look for a younger and less mentally-scarred striker, and with that, his opportunity to prove that his name belongs at the upper echelons of the game would be lost for good.  

Can Higuain exorcise his big game demons and lead Juventus to Champions League glory? The jury is very much still out. 

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
@ a vasavia. Once you know yourself its all good. Thanks for the reply idiot .
on the 15th September, 2017 at 12:58am
Oh boy here come the Anonymous
on the 13th September, 2017 at 3:31pm
@Juveman


"If messi wouldn't have played we wouldn't have lost.."

Are you sure about that..?
on the 13th September, 2017 at 10:47am
But for people to be saying how horrible juve are and we don't get help in UCL which is why we suck there and both Italian teams were atrocious. look you mentally deficient people, juve not getting help is the dumbest thing I've ever heard, cause without help we go to TWO finals in 3 years, beat the likes of city, Chelsea, barca, real, Dortmund like really how dumb are you guys ?? also loosing 3-0 to barca at home and coming draw to ATLETICO doesn't exactly yell disaster league to me.
on the 13th September, 2017 at 9:34am
WOW as always the juve haters going nuts talking crap about us, shouldn't you guys maybe try support another serie a team instead of get a boner when we loose. Look we lost 3-0 away erm isn't that what barca did just 6 months ago ?? it's the first game of the group really no big deal. and let's really face it, Messi beat us not barca, if messi was injured we wouldn't have lost it's that simple.
on the 13th September, 2017 at 9:31am
I hope to God never to see Benatia on the pitch again this season. I don't understand why Allegri insists on using him in lieu of Rugani. I'd rather have a wooden plank play CB than Benatia.
on the 13th September, 2017 at 8:35am
Big woop,

They lost to a great team that that had a great performance, with an incredible player.

Higuin this, and Higuin that, Allegri not good enough, people where playing out of position etc.

They won the league what is 6 years ina row and reached final twice in 3 years, be humble!!!!

HYPOCRITES
on the 13th September, 2017 at 7:57am
Higuain is not even worthy of one of Messi's toe let alone his feet.Fatty is one of the most useless striker I've ever seen on a big stage.
on the 13th September, 2017 at 6:46am
Gonzalo Piguain just isn't a big game player. He's a good sub and nothing more.

I wouldn't worry as with the outrageous transfers these past few months, a team like Arsenal will pay top dollars for him, so Juve will recoup their $.

Juve peaked these past few years but they have not addressed their issues in the midfield and slow backline. They will be a 2nd round or QF in the CL at best this year.

Hopefully, Napoli can strengthen in JAN and make a deep push in the CL - Italy's only hope
on the 13th September, 2017 at 1:58am
90 mil = hig giving barca fans the finger.
Watching juve backline get diced by Leo. Priceless.
on the 13th September, 2017 at 1:40am
Formation was wrong from the get go..433 and 4231 against Barca for this year and tonight,Was a big NO NO,.IMO LAST YEAR IT WORKED DUE TO HAVING dani alves and "ahem" bonnucci plus chiellini was playing also in both legs so it really was permissible.Fast forward this year and tonights LOSS we shoulda stuck with a 352 or 3421 to load the mids and defend from the middle,where we woulda played the counter attack higher up. What really suck's is "NO CHIELO NO MANDZU NO MARCHI NO KHEDIR" NO PARTY.
on the 13th September, 2017 at 1:14am
Oh boy here come the idiots
on the 13th September, 2017 at 12:01am
I have never thought Higuain was an apex striker. He is clearly a flat-track bully. His 34 goals in 60 appearances is a decent strike rate, but beneath those figures is the fact that those 34 goals came in 25 games & in the remaining 35 he fired blanks. No goals for Juventus in four one-off games for silverware. As long as he wears 'Black & White' I will support him, but I don't like him & believe we should have sold him this summer and gone all out for Alvaro Morata, who is a big game player.
on the 12th September, 2017 at 11:41pm
Rosario, there is a gap though it was made to look larger because (at least to my mind) both Roma and Juve haven't started the season all that convincingly. I know that Juve have maximum points, but who have they played? Their results have flattered their performances. and let's not forget the Lazio defeat. As for Roma, they desperately miss Salah, esp Dzeko. Playing a CF on the flanks won't yield the same results. I also believe that EDF didn't do enough to warrant the Roma job.
on the 12th September, 2017 at 11:30pm
@Rosario
Italy beat the Spanish at Euro 2016, Juventus thrashed Barcelona five months. This season the results have been reversed, it doesn't mean that one team is vastly superior to the other. Games between big teams are decided on the day. Real, Barca & Bayern have been the strongest for several seasons now and to win the UCL you usually have to beat two if not all three of them. Juventus & Atletico have reached two finals apiece, but it is getting harder to break through and win it.
on the 12th September, 2017 at 11:27pm
hahaha.

This

THIS is the league people think deserve 4 automatic champions league places?

Shameful, Embarassing. Hilarious.
on the 12th September, 2017 at 11:16pm
Un, dos,tres, a casa.
A lion in Italy, but a little mouse in Europe, this proves how juve are allways helped by all means to dominate the calcio, and win all those championship titles.
Higuain shined @ Napoli, because he had great players serving him, like Hamsik Callejon,and Mertens.
on the 12th September, 2017 at 10:49pm
Anyone with a sane and balanced mind watching Juventus and Roma tonight vs Spanish opposition can see the vast difference in the quality of their football in comparison to our teams. The reality is that our clubs have fallen so low, it is all quite sad. Roma managed to get a point, but the difference in class was apparent for the majority of the game. possession, movement, speed of passing and general technical ability...ath.madrid were on a whole other level. All very sad to watch.
on the 12th September, 2017 at 10:27pm
There's no bigger flop than the jerk Allegri. He has the ability to turn a World Class Goal Scorer to being an Attacking Midfielder, and World Class Defender to a Right-back.
on the 12th September, 2017 at 5:34pm
I'm always trying to understand those who tries to make excuses for Higuain. Why is it that Dybala can create his own chances whereas a 90m, highest paid in Serie A cannot create his own? Without Higuain, Dybala still plays fine, but without Dybala, Higuain turned into Amauri.
on the 12th September, 2017 at 4:09pm
Have to agree with interello and moggi on this one
on the 12th September, 2017 at 3:24pm
They didn't buy him to win the champions league that was simply the cover to not receive criticism for buying him to knee-cap the southerners for a year and Rome as well.
on the 12th September, 2017 at 3:07pm
Chastising Higuain for his performance in the CL final last year is misleading. He had no service whatsoever due to a malfunctioning and injured midfield. He scored two important goals against Monaco to put Juve in the final. He was in fact Juve's top scorer in the CL. Granted, he does not score as much in that competition, but let's not exaggerate. He is a classy player.
on the 12th September, 2017 at 2:31pm
How many Italians will be in juve's 11 tonight? Rugani and Buffon?
on the 12th September, 2017 at 2:16pm
Juventus wasn't built around him as Napoli was, he was not getting the service he required last season, especially from the wide areas but he wasn't THAT bad (except the final!). He created a lot of room for Dybala and others to operate in. With Douglas Costa and Berna that can and should change when they find their feet.

He also needs to help himself, lean up, stay 100% focused on football to be a top champion. Right now Icardi is ahead, shows more hunger, better finishing and focus.
on the 12th September, 2017 at 2:11pm
This is where Juve made their biggest mistake, buying Higuan to win the UCL. In some ways ways it sucks for Pipita to always have certain expectations placed on him. At the same time though he puts himself in these situations. He should have stayed at Napoli.
on the 12th September, 2017 at 1:51pm
This article is 10000% right. I am an ardent Juve fan, and I had mixed feelings when we bought Higuaín. I love him as a player, but in the back of my mind, I felt that we should have spent that money on trying to keep Morata. I personally watched Higuaín in Cardiff, and he was abysmal. It is sad, because he is a proven goalscorer, just not in big games. I really hope and pray that he proves everyone wrong this year, but I am not hopeful.
on the 12th September, 2017 at 12:03pm
90m was a bad investment. Higuain was brought in for one purpose, to win the UCL, and as many predicted, the biggest game choker in football history didn't deliver.
on the 12th September, 2017 at 11:21am

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