The unstoppable Argentine shattered a 66-year- old Serie A record in style, writes Chloe Beresford.
Topping the Serie A scoring charts by a margin of 17 goals, Gonzalo Higuain comfortably walked away with the Capocannoniere award this season. His nearest rivals to the accolade have been Paulo Dybala of Juventus and Milan’s Carlos Bacca, on 18 and 17 respectively, while the Argentinian striker has weighed in with an incredible 36 goals in 35 matches. That’s one every 82 minutes.
Pipita certainly showed a sense of drama when matching Gunnar Nordahl’s all-time Serie A record against Frosinone in the last game of the season. He then set the new benchmark with a spectacular overhead kick, completing his first and only hat-trick of the campaign.
Combining well with team-mate Lorenzo Insigne – who himself has scored 12 goals and provided 10 assists – the former Real Madrid star has used criticism received at the beginning of the season from Coach Maurizio Sarri as a springboard to his successful campaign.
“What did I say to Higuain in pre-season? I told him he was too lazy and if he didn’t change his attitude he’d never become the best centre-forward in the world,” Sarri explained back in October. “We spoke clearly, so this turned into an honest and direct rapport that probably helps motivate him.”
Indeed, his Coach has consistently asked more from his leading striker, and even demanded improvement after his side’s victory over Sassuolo in January when Higuain had already scored 20 goals in 20 games. “If he attacked the goal more the way he did after his first strike, he’d be even better. He doesn’t make that movement often, but he has everything it takes and if he made more of his characteristics he could do even better.”
Napoli took on Frosinone at the San Paolo on the last day of the season, with Higuain aware that a brace would see him equal Nordahl’s all-time Serie A record of 35 goals in a single season, set with Milan in 1949-50. If it hadn’t been for a sensational lack of discipline back in April however, the 28-year- old could have perhaps broken the aforementioned benchmark even earlier.
Receiving a three-game ban and a €20,000 fine for his angry reaction to being sent off in his side’s 3-1 defeat to Udinese, Higuain cost his team-mates – many of whom had tried to hold him back from his angry rampage – dearly as his side lost again to Inter whilst suspended.
Despite falling away in crunch moments, the form of Higuain has given fans of the Partenopei something to shout about and hanging onto their star player will be crucial in order to mount another title challenge next term.