With Napoli’s top scorer from the last three seasons, Uruguayan international Edinson Cavani, having left the club for big-spending Paris Saint-Germain in a £54 million move, the Italian team looked to be in need of a new talisman to replace Cavani. That is, until Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain was confirmed as a new signing by the Serie A club this week for a fee believed to be just over £34 million, the most expensive transfer in Napoli’s history.
It’s fair to say that it will be very difficult for any player to come in and replace Cavani, who had been an integral cog of an improving Napoli side for the last three years. The Uruguayan led them to second place in Serie A last season, behind the superb Juventus, in addition to bringing European football to Naples in each of his three seasons. His goal-scoring record of 78 goals in 104 league games for the Azzuri certainly didn’t go unnoticed away from his club, and he attracted much attention from some of Europe’s top sides in the summer of 2012 and the year after. Indeed, he was chased by Real Madrid, Manchester City, and Chelsea this year, before he recently sealed his move to Paris.
This departure left a big hole in Napoli’s squad, and they evidently needed a world-class player to fill it. Eventually, this gap was filled by Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain, although other strikers were also linked with a move to the San Paolo such as Edin Dzeko of Manchester City. However, these reports did not come to fruition, and instead they moved for Real Madrid’s Higuain, who had been an impressive part of Real’s side for the previous six years, scoring 107 league goals at one of the world’s top sides.
It’s also fair to say that few would have expected Higuain to make the move to Naples this summer. For much of the window so far, the French-born 25-year-old had been linked with a move to the Premier League to join Arsenal, and at times this deal did look to be close. However, different valuations of the player by the two clubs meant that the deal failed to materialize and left Higuain open to the move to Italy instead.
Gonzalo Higuain is one of a number of top players to transfer to Italy from other leagues around the world this summer, among the likes of Kevin Strootman and Carlos Tevez (to Roma and Juventus respectively). He also joins several new arrivals at the Partenopei, joining the likes of Jose Callejon and Raul Albiol, who both signed for the Serie A runners-up from Real Madrid this summer. Napoli’s spending this summer has totaled to over £60 million, and they certainly don’t look to be done yet, after being left with a vast sum of money from the Cavani deal.
I think it’s fair to say that this transfer has to be considered a coup for Napoli. As good as they’ve been at times in the last few years, they still aren’t as big as some of the clubs who’ve been linked with the Argentina international, and as such have done very well to seal his signature and tie him to the club for the next five years. If he’s able to recreate his spectacular form with Real Madrid, he certainly will have turned out to be the right replacement for Cavani, although there’s quite a long wait until then.
There’s a chance that Higuain could reach the cult status with Napoli that Diego Maradona did after signing from Barcelona in the 1980s, for what was at the time a world-record fee of just over £11 million. He then brought Napoli their first ever Serie A titles (in 1987 and 1990) and also became the club’s all-time leading scorer, with 115 goals in all competitions in Italy. He became such a legend at the club that they even decided to retire his number 10 shirt in his honor. However, he ended up leaving the Azzuri in shame, after serving a drugs ban for cocaine. Even with this, he upheld his reputation as one of the greatest to have ever played the game.
It would take a lot of work for Higuain to reach the heady heights of his compatriot Maradona, although if he were to do it, it would surely seal his name as one of the true greats in football, and would mean he’d be remembered for generations to come. You have to remember, some believe Maradona was the greatest of all time, better than players of Pele’s calibre. To surpass this stature would take a truly great player.
I think that with this signing, along with the other ones they’ve made this summer, Napoli stand a real chance of winning their first league title since 1990. They’ve used the funds from the sale of Cavani very well and are among several clubs who could realistically challenge for the title next year, such as Fiorentina, Roma, and AC Milan. These clubs will be looking to take the crown off of Juventus, who’ve won the last two league titles but have also strengthened themselves in the last month or so.
Only time will tell if Higuain has made the right choice in moving to Naples instead of to London or staying in Madrid. I think there’s a very good chance that this move will work out for him, and not only will he win silverware with his new club, but he will also gain a very high status among his new fans, maybe even reaching the talismanic heights that Maradona reached with the Napoli faithful. It’ll certainly be an interesting campaign for the neutral to watch as Napoli try to build on the successes of last year.