Once considered to be one of the deadliest strikers in the World, Higuaina s star has faded remarkably over the past few years. Whether it is injuries or form or a combination of both, Higuaina s promising career for Club and Country has most definitely taken a turn for the worse. In this article, we analyze the fall from grace of the man who promised much but delivered little.
Gonzalo Gerardo Higuain stepped up to take the all-important penalty. With thousands of eyes in the stadium firmly transfixed upon him, Higuain blasted the football into the stratosphere. He shrugged his shoulders and waved his hands in rueful astonishment. He knew he had just let his teammates down. He knew he had just cost his team a shot at glory.
One could be forgiven for assuming that this is a description of Higuaina s penalty miss for Argentina in the Copa America final against Chile a few days ago. However, this is actually an eerily similar account of his missed penalty for Napoli in a crucial Serie A clash against Lazio which cost his side a place in next seasona s UEFA Champions League.
a El Pipitaa , as hea s popularly known in his native Argentina, has had a disastrous year. He has been singled out for criticism by many Argentinians and Neapolitans alike for the misfortunes of their teams over the past 12 months. Many believe that the former Real Madrid striker has been on a downward spiral ever since he suffered a career threatening back injury in 2011 while playing for the Los Merengues. What is indisputable is the fact that Higuain, once one of the most sought after strikers in Europe, is currently a mere shadow of his former self.
Things werena t always this bad though for El Pipita. Higuain started of his professional football career with Argentine giants Club Atl tico River Plate in 2005. However, it was only after he scored a brace against arch rivals Boca Juniors in the Superclasico to knock them out of the Copa Libertadores in May 2006 that he truly sparked into prominence.
A few months later, he was snapped up by Spanish giants Real Madrid for a reported fee of 12 Million Euros. After a couple of underwhelming seasons, Higuain burst into life in 2008-09 as he blasted 22 goals in 34 games for the Los Blancos. His Real Madrid career peaked in the 2009-10 season as he scored an impressive 27 goals in 32 appearances. It remains his most prolific goal scoring season till date.
The arrival of Jose Mourinho as the manager of the club in the summer of 2010 ultimately proved detrimental to Higuaina s prospering Real Madrid career. Mourinho, who preferred playing a single striker system, started rotating Higuain and fellow forward Karim Benzema on a regular basis. The goal scoring form of Higuain, a striker who thrives on the amount of time spent on the football pitch, suffered as a result of Mourinhoa s new system. To make matters worse, a crippling back injury in early 2011 further reduced his game time to a miserly 17 appearances in the season.
After his return from injury, Higuain was never able to truly establish himself as Reala s number 1 striker and had to be content with several appearances off the bench for the next couple of seasons. In July, 2013, Higuain decided to part ways with Real Madrid as he signed for the Italian club SSC Napoli for a club transfer record fee of 32 million pounds. It is rumoured that internal club politics had a role to play in engineering Higuaina s exit from Madrid. Ramon Calderon, the former President of Real Madrid, signed Higuain for Real Madrid while Perez brought Benzema to the Club. Some claim that the bitter enmity between Calderon and Perez resulted in Higuain being shown the door by the latter.
Higuain’s arrival in Naples was compared by many to that of another Argentine who is still revered as God by most Neapolitans a Diego Armando Maradona. Upon obtaining the signature of Higuain, many Napoli fans started dreaming of winning their first Serie A title since the glory days of Maradona in the 1980s. However, his impact thus far in the Partenopei shirt has fallen far short of expectations, culminating in that fateful penalty miss against Lazio in the final match of last season.
Higuaina s international stint with La Albiceleste has followed a similar trajectory to that of his domestic career. Higuain, who holds a French-Argentine dual citizenship, rejected a call up from the French national squad in early 2007 and instead opted to play for Argentina in what he described as a a choice from his hearta . Soon after making his debut, he established himself as a regular for his national side which resulted in him getting selected in the Argentina 2010 World Cup squad under long-time admirer Diego Maradona. While Argentina were eliminated in the quarter finals by Germany, Higuain ended up as the top scorer for his country with 4 goals which included a well taken hat-trick against South Korea in the Group stages of the tournament.
In the 2014 World Cup, Higuain scored the winner for Argentina in a Quarter Final win against Belgium. However, thata s as good as it got for him in the Argentina jersey. In the World Cup final against Germany, Higuain missed a glorious one on one scoring opportunity against Manuel Neuer after a mistaken back pass from Toni Kroos. Argentina would eventually go on to lose the final 1-0.
In the recently concluded final of the Copa America 2015, Higuain once again missed a gilt-edged chance to win the cup for Argentina in the final minute of normal time against Chile. Since then, he has been the butt of all jokes on social media after he went on to sky his penalty in the shootout against the Chileans, thereby costing his country a 15th Copa America crown.
It is safe to say that Gonzalo Higuain is currently at the lowest point in his football career. At 27 years of age, many will argue that El Pipitaa s best days are behind him. Higuaina s ability to recover from this current downturn will be a real test of his character. He still has enough time left to win multiple domestic honours with whichever club he chooses to play with. He still has enough time to guide his beloved Argentina to a 3rd World Cup crown. But if he fails, he risks becoming just another player who fell victim to his own success.