Will Arsene Wenger regret passing on this transfer?

Gonzalo Higuain

He was deemed too expensive, not by the club themselves but the Arsenal supporters. £31million for a 25-year-old with title-winning experience, Champions League experience, a full international with one of the leading nations in world football, and a player who’s about as natural a goal scorer as you’ll find.

Somewhere in the scorn for what Napoli ended up paying for Gonzalo Higuain, there were clear signs of disappointment, Arsenal supporters resigning themselves to defeat once again as yet another top target slipped through the net. Most tried to make themselves feel better through the insistence that the Argentinian wasn’t worth anywhere near the £31million the Naples club paid Real Madrid, but who are they kidding?

This is a summer where a 19-year-old centre-back with about 30 league games under his belt moved from Roma to PSG for €32 million. This is a summer where Real Madrid may break the world record transfer fee for Gareth Bale. Edinson Cavani, another proven striker with international pedigree, has already gone for £56million. How on earth is Higuain not worth £31million?

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But then this is typically Arsenal. Pass up on all the obvious, easy choices – of which, Mario Gomez and Stevan Jovetic were included – and instead zero in on the most controversial figure with the most convoluted contract situation in Luis Suarez. Arsenal may not want to budge on their £40million offering, but Liverpool reportedly won’t settle for anything less than £50million. Following Higuain’s welcome by 200 Napoli fans at Rome Fiumicino airport, Arsenal can pat themselves on the back for their great business sense.

Can Arsenal use Real Madrid’s last minute hike of the price on Higuain as an excuse? Absolutely not. Higuain was a striker in demand and the Spanish club tried to get as much as they could out of him. Isn’t that exactly what Arsenal did a year ago when they sold Robin van Persie to league rivals Manchester United for £24million when they could have ushered him out of the country to Juventus for much less?

Arsenal and Higuain were the perfect marriage: a striker who desperately needed to be the centrepiece of a good attacking unit, coupled with a club who were desperate for someone of his quality. What’s £7-8million extra if you’re getting everything you need, and for a considerable number of years? But Arsenal apparently don’t think like that. Did the club pull the plug on principle, or was there a strange epiphany that ran through everyone’s mind that Suarez, for much more money, would be the better target?

And then there’s the complexities of this Suarez deal that weren’t present with Higuain. Liverpool don’t want to sell to Arsenal, at all. They’d rather hang on and hope that Real Madrid revive their interest and then flog the Uruguayan to Spain than strengthen a domestic rival. Higuain, if what was reported can be believed, had already agreed to a contract with Arsenal; he wanted to leave and Real Madrid were more than willing to sell. Don’t blame them for getting market value for one of their assets. And if Higuain isn’t a good deal at £31million, then that would assume he isn’t comfortably better than Alvaro Negredo.

If there was reluctance on Arsenal’s part to sign Higuain for the fee Real Madrid demanded, then why not take the plunge much earlier when other options were available? Mario Gomez is a leading, treble winning, world-class striker who went to Fiorentina for €15million – an anomaly in this transfer market. Fernando Llorente, a towering Spanish international who, prior to last season, was a regular scorer of double figures at Athletic Bilbao, went to Juventus on a free transfer. Even Jovetic, who I maintain would have been a very good addition to Arsenal, signed for Manchester City for £22million – the fee Arsenal thought they had agreed with Madrid for Higuain.

Have Arsenal made a mistake in passing on Gonzalo Higuain?

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