It’s been a while since Gonzalo Higuain rose through the ranks in the River Plate academy in Argentina to reach the top of Real Madrid’s wanted list. The hype surrounding him was almost unimaginable for a player who was from a league not known to everyone around the world. He was tipped to reach stardom. While it’s partly true that he reached stardom but it’d be a massive lie to even suggest that it has been a smooth sailing career. Often criticized for being overweight or missing chances when it matters the most. This question is, is it his fault? And is Gonzalo Higuain criminally underrated? Let’s find out.
The rise to stardom-
The year was 2005, the man referred to as “El Pipita” had already impressed his coaches and the passerby enough to earn the right to be referred to as the next big thing in football. His poacher’s instinct inside the box brought him comparisons to some of the greatest to have ever played the game. Such a talent was rarely ever going to go unnoticed as he unsurprisingly made it on to Real Madrid’s wishlist. In a spell that that lasted seven years in the Bernabeu, he managed an impressive 121 goals while scoring over 20 goals in a league season on three occasions.
The departure from the supposed spotlight-
This period of success was met with an uneventful collapse as Gonzalo Higuain found himself on the Real Madrid’s sale list. This put some of the biggest clubs on alert, with clubs like Arsenal and Napoli leading the queue. At 25, Gonzalo Higuain considered a move to Napoli. While Napoli play in the prestigious Serie A, it felt like the start of a downward trajectory as it didn’t have the glamour of playing in Madrid or representing a club in a league that most refer to as the best in the world. Unbeknownst to him and the whole world, this was going to be the beginning of something that no one could have thought of.
Argentinian Hero or Villian?
While his club career took a different turn, Gonzalo Higuain’s international career was a mixed bag. A bag that contains joy coupled with glaring misses in crucial games. His infamous misses in the World Cup 2014 final and the Copa America in 2016 painted a bad picture of what was an incredibly talented striker. For a player who managed 31 goals across 75 caps for Argentina, It could be claimed that it was just a tale of “the right player at the wrong time”. These misses resulted in a lot of backlash from the fans and made people forget his heroics from the past, and this serves as a reminder of how fickle-minded football fans are.
The career renaissance-
On the back of a less than impressive end to the world cup tournament in 2014, a recovery was thought to be a far stretch, but this was the time when the former Real Madrid man displayed his elite mentality and produced some of his best football ever. This included a season where he set a Serie A record of scoring 36 goals in a season, with just 3 of it coming from the spot. As previously said, a form like this should be enough to seduce some of the biggest clubs in the world and so it did.
The “El Pipita” experiment-
Juventus broke the bank to sign the 91 goal striker while intending to restore champions league glory in Turin. Gonzalo Higuain once again walked in with enough hype surrounding him. His goalscoring prowess never took a toll as he ended the campaign with 32 goals, and this form was rewarded with a domestic double and a champions league final. While the champions league final was nothing to write plaudits about, it was the semi-final against Monaco that brought back the aura surrounding the so-called “El Pipita”. For a player who was often written off against big teams, he stepped up and seized control during a much-needed time. His brace sealed a spot in the final against a Barcelona side consisting of the deadliest front three in football at the time.
After a couple of good seasons at Juventus, He was unfairly judged as a massive disappointment as he never delivered what was truly wanted of him. This started a series of hugely unsuccessful loan moves. The disappointment also made it’s way on to the international scene where he announced his retirement after another disappointing World cup tournament. A return to Juventus for the 2019-20 season was a reminder that he wasn’t very prolific anymore. His playmaking skills were still on display but he was still a far cry from his old self.
The final say-
To give a glimpse of how people often tend to focus on things that are fresh off of their memories, Gonzalo Higuain’s decline is better documented as opposed to his past heroics. In an age where exorbitant sums of money are being paid for almost anyone that knows how to kick a ball, It should be noted that Gonzalo Higuain produced a goalscoring form that only a few can dream of, and he’s arguably been one of the best strikers of the past decade. And all of this took place during a time where he faced a lot of bouts, both in his personal life and professional life. So, it’s not foolish to suggest that Gonzalo Higuain is underrated.