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Friday December 1 2017
Everyone's a winner with Higuain

It could be argued both Napoli and Juventus ultimately benefited from Gonzalo Higuain's €90m transfer, writes Giancarlo Rinaldi.

It was the great tug-of-love transfer story of a couple of summers ago. The latest tale of a club talisman being lured away by a huge transfer fee, the promise of trophies and, of course, immense financial rewards. There were smug smiles in Turin and howls of ingratitude in Naples as Gonzalo Higuain duly made his move north. But, about 18 months on, who has the most cause for contentment now about the €90m deal?

In truth, they've got over his departure pretty quickly at the Stadio San Paolo. The cries of "we never really loved you anyway" which always accompany such transfers have swiftly gone from sounding hollow to having a ring of truth about them. Sitting top of the Serie A table, of course, and playing some sumptuous football have helped to ease any pain they might have felt at his loss.

Football fans, as we all know, are notoriously fickle and last week's hero is easily converted into this week's subject of ridicule or worse. There's no doubt that the Argentinian led the Napoli line to devastating effect over his time at the club and received suitable adulation in the process. However, might his departure actually have strengthened them as a team overall?

The evidence, it would be fair to say, is mixed. If you look at who transferred in that season he packed up his pizza boxes for Piedmont, you'd have your doubts. Arkadiusz Milik, Leonardo Pavoletti, Amadou Diawara and Piotr Zielinski have made mixed contributions to the cause. Only one could be judged an outright failure, while the others are very much works in progress with significant potential. So far, you'd say, you'd rather have Gonzalo.

But while he left a significant-sized hole in their attack, it has been filled in a very different shape and style by the explosion of Dries Mertens. The three seasons in Naples he shared with Higuain were characterised by diminishing appearances in the starting line-up and a goals haul that only just limped into double figures across all competitions. Now that he has been given freedom, responsibility and increased game time, however, he is a player transformed. Indeed, his figures for finding the net compare more than favourably with his former colleague.

If Napoli have moved on though, what has the impact been in the Allianz Juventus Stadium (or whatever it is called these days) of the new striker's arrival? That summer, remember, the deal was fuelled by the funding from Paul Pogba's departure, but the Bianconeri seemed to absorb that pretty quickly. With Paulo Dybala already settled in and contributing handsomely, Higuain notionally filled the gap left by Alvaro Morata. By any standards, it has been a resounding success.

The new hitman has provided goals galore and another Scudetto and Coppa Italia to add to their collection. What he did not, however, deliver was a Champions League which, of course, is something that Juventini crave more than most. His critics would say he provided less in Europe than he did domestically, but the figures of about a goal every other game don't really back that up. In Italy, for sure, he has swept all before him in even more impressive style, but you could hardly say he has been a slouch in continental clashes.

In giving Max Allegri's attack an undoubted focal point, he helped them bulldoze the opposition in Serie A last season and has remained prolific this term - even if his team have not been quite as dominant. It is in those in-the-balance games that they know he can dig them out of a hole and grind out a win or snatch a draw. That kind of display is worth tens of millions of pounds of anybody's money - at least in the modern market.

But the move did not achieve the double whammy these transfers sometimes do. In strengthening themselves, it does not appear that Juventus have also significantly weakened a title rival. Indeed, about a year-and-a-half on, Napoli have absorbed their striker’s departure admirably and are playing, if anything, better than ever.

Time will tell whether a clinical hitman like Higuain might have helped their Scudetto challenge further but, in the meantime, neither club has any real cause for regret. They meet as glorious rivals in one of the most thrilling title races for some time. It has been something of a score-draw off the pitch for these two great teams so far this season, but Friday night might tilt the balance in someone's favour. Few would doubt that Higuain, should he beat injury and play, could well be the deciding factor.

Have your say...
bo th team got better side after the deal. Juve get better with GONZALO up front and Napoli got strethened with 90 million euros
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 9:41am
"Everyone's a winner with Higuain"

Apparently not.
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 9:19am
As a mutual i dont think but know you are stupid. I really do!
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 12:30am
Hahahahaahajaj maradonna is your crack smoking talisman. What a bright shining light of encouragement he is . Hahhahahaahah stay lame!!! Hahaaha haaaaaaa
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 12:26am
Where are all the Juventus haters now??

What a player he is, surgery Monday and scores on Friday.

All this talk of Juve in crisis, now I think Napoli are in crisis lol
on the 1st December, 2017 at 10:13pm
I think Juve got the better deal...
on the 1st December, 2017 at 9:45pm
it is clear that Juve have bought Higuain to make change such fixture and it will be seen sooner rather than later if Higuain is worth the 90m or not
on the 1st December, 2017 at 4:44pm
As a neutral.I think Napoli got the better end of the deal. I really do! Mertens has been a revelation.(Milik ain't done bad when fit either)It allowed Napoli to strengthen their squad without their starting 11 losing much(If any)potency. Seriously.Think how thin their squad would be without that £90M n now they even look more compact as a team n in defense. Juve on the other hand. Higuian has done well n scored vital goals against Monaco n Porto yet still hasn't done it in the really BIG games
on the 1st December, 2017 at 4:03pm
@JJ & Juveman. While I agree that it's a bit early to judge I think it is important to contrast the the pint of Juve having scored 5 more by noting that they have also conceded 5 more. I have been impressed with how solid Napoli are this season over last and so far it looks like both teams have swapped approach, with Juve going the route of not caring about conceding because they are confident they can score more than the opposition.
on the 1st December, 2017 at 2:40pm
@JJ. Precisely, so far juve is beating ourselves more than any thing else. Even in playing horribly all season 2 MADE penalties and were draw with Napoli, and playing horribly we outscored Napoli's attacking football by 5 goals so far.
on the 1st December, 2017 at 1:45pm
Its really too early to make a judgement. Lets see what the state of play is like at the end of the season. Juve even at present are significantly out scoring Napoli this season even when playing well within their potential. Napoli appear to be at full throttle and setting a blistering pace in Italy and are even winning ugly which is very important.
Can this Napoli squad finally reap the rewards this year?
I feel it all depends on whether or not Juve get out of 2nd gear
on the 1st December, 2017 at 8:57am
surely it should be re-titled everyone is a winner with cavanni as it was his fee which enabled napoli to go out and bring in the likes of mertens callejon albiol and higuain. Ultimately napoli for me got the better of the deal over higuain they have a young talented team capable of competing for a tittle whilst shedding themselves of a extremely expensive center forward who has no club loyalty. It only really works out for juve if he enables them to win the cl.
on the 1st December, 2017 at 8:39am

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