The case against Juventus selling Gonzalo Higuain in the summer
With the summer transfer market in full swing, one Juventus player is being linked with a move away, one that many never expected to be mentioned in any rumours. Gonzalo Higuain is not only Juve's MVP of the year, their top striker and the most-expensive player Juventus have ever purchased, but he is a superstar and one of the main reasons why the club have continued to grow from strength to strength in attack in these past two seasons.
The Argentina international may not be the most clinical in Serie A, the fastest or the youngest, but Higuain is hands down the most complete striker in Italy. Yet some feel that Juve need a more ruthless finisher in the box, a player who can inject a little more star quality in the big matches or at least young enough to develop over the years.
According to La Stampa, Massimiliano Allegri is also thought to have requested a striker who can break with pace and is better at attacking spaces, but considering the options Juve have reportedly considered, neither Alvaro Morata, Anthony Martial nor Mauro Icardi are better options.
Morata is indeed sensational, but he's yet to prove himself capable of leading a line and being the No. 1 choice considering the season he's had with Chelsea. It's well known just how mentally fragile the player can be and how his emotions can affect his performances and while few strikers boast his ability and intensity, especially in the big matches, he comes with a few doubts should he arrive as the undisputed striker.
Martial, despite struggling to find consistency or win the faith of his coaches, is blessed with natural talent. However, he also possesses several weaknesses to his game much of which centre around his ability to produce a complete performance going forward or sacrifice himself defensively. Is he experienced enough for the big pressure matches? Can he help lead the line when players start to lose hope in the big matches? Is he mature enough to cope with the bizarre world of calcio?
As for Icardi, few strikers are as efficient in the box as the Argentine, but question marks have often been raised about the player's ability to produce across the whole 90 minutes. Does he do enough outside of the box? Has he really ever understood the art of sacrificing, of working for the team, of taking a back seat in certain matches to help a teammate shine? Moreover, his private life is often scrutinised, and he has been known to make a headline or two. Do Juve wish to expose themselves to potential scandals?
Higuain, under Allegri, may not score as much as he did at Napoli but he's vital for the side's attacking play and tactical versatility. His movement has improved every year and if defended against strongly, he understands how to sacrifice and play for the team, providing key passes, assists and leadership.
Often accused of lacking in pace, Higuain makes up for it with excellent positioning. Knowing exactly where to stand and how to deliver to ensure speed, he's actually a brilliant player to have in the front line when a side is looking to counter. As for those who accuse him of not performing in the big matches, he turned the game around against Tottenham in the Champions League second leg, scored the winner against Napoli in the Stadio San Paolo, got Juve back on level terms in the important match against Inter to help secure the Scudetto and he was vital for Juve in the Coppa Italia, helping them reach the final by producing a man of the match performance against Atalanta in the first leg of the semifinal.
While he may not have played the game of his life against Real Madrid in Turin, he was one of the few on the pitch who showed competitive desire and tried to lift the team, always believing in a goal and in the win and produced a great effort that Keylor Navas saved.
One also has to also take into account that he wasn't always afforded the greatest support. Douglas Costa only began to impress in the second half of the season and can be a little individualistic. Paulo Dybala's form has yo-yoed all year and the player has proved particular poor in the big matches, offering little assistance to Higuain while Mario Mandzukic is often more concerned with giving an all-round performance than focusing on attacking contributions. Yet Higuain always fights.
La Stampa opined that Higuain is not what Allegri wants, Sport Mediaset believe that in a year of reconstruction, Juve have to sacrifice a player and better it be the ageing Higuain than the young Dybala while the player himself has said he would like to play in the Premier League. Higuain does indeed have a contract with Juventus that runs until 2021 and if the club wish to sell him, they would need to be paid over €63 million to break even, considering amortisation.
However, the Old Lady needs her star striker if they are to ensure a winning mentality and progression in all competitions, he remains one of the best in the world and an asset to the club.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.