The transfer rumours about what could be the biggest move of the summer – Gareth Bale signing for Real Madrid – have brought to the table the name of Gonzalo Higuain, who could be used as a bargaining chip in Los Blancos’ attempt to land the Premier League star. Far from being a trick from the Spanish giants to reduce Bale’s value, Tottenham could be making the best of the deal if El Pipita ends up showing his class at White Hart Lane.
Far away from the ‘Galactico’ label – he is too humble for that – Higuain seems condemned to prove himself over and over with Real Madrid. Perhaps because of the fact that, the Argentinian has learnt in football opportunity knocks but once, and has acquired an ability to convert minutes played into goals that very few strikers can compete with.
In December 2006 and after impressing for a short period of time with River Plate, a 19-year-old called Gonzalo Higuain arrived at the Bernabeu with the difficult task of replacing Brazilian legend Ronaldo. The expectations were quite high and in his first season the youngster only showed skills, hard work and a more than concerning difficulty to score goals. Far from impressing anyone with 2 goals in 23 games, he was nicknamed Igualin (igual means equal in Spanish), in a sarcastic reference to how similar the new starlet was compared to Il Fenomeno.
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Higuain could have been one more in the long-list of talents that pass through Real Madrid without leaving a mark because of the lack of patience of fans and media, but his stubborn nature made him stay and prove everyone wrong. Regularly coming on as a substitute – he has been living in the shadow of Van Nistelrooy, Raul and Benzema, among others – he started banging in the goals and his scoring averages would often make the attacking starter blush. Six years and 115 goals later, no one doubts his talent.
The 2012-13 season is not being any different for El Pipita, as the number nine position is shared between him and Benzema, with Mourinho often opting for the Frenchman as a starter in many important games. Nevertheless, the Argentinian has managed to bag 11 La Liga goals in 19 appearances, with an average of more than one goal every two games.
Playing as a sub or substituted when playing as a starter, statistics become more relevant when we look at the minutes played. Considering the time he’s spent on the pitch, Higuain only needs a bit longer than one game (115 minutes) to score a goal. This means he would be hitting 20 league goals at this stage of the season if he had the same playing time as Cristiano Ronaldo. Enough to fight with the best of Premier League top scorers.
Having said that, Higuain does not respond to the classic profile of a goal-hunter. In fact, he is not a scorer as much as he is a goal-chance generator. With a selfless attitude uncommon in a striker, the 25-year-old possesses an outstanding ability to create spaces for his team mates. Unlike many others, he would make a run with the absolute certainty that the ball will not land at his feet, but knowing that his move will increase the collective chance of success.
Adapted to Villas-Boas’ formation, Higuain’s capacity to drag defenders could have a reflection on the scoring numbers of players like Adebayor, Defoe or Lennon, and his speed and constant movements can also be a relief for the midfield when looking for long, raking passes. Those, together with his sacrifice in defensive duties, make for a complete striker whose talent is not being fully exploited in Madrid.
Real Madrid is a club that when selling is often not looking for money as much as for a space in the squad to bring a new player. Given that, Spurs can take advantage of an underrated estimate for the services of Higuain, as reports suggest the Spanish giants are desperate to land Gareth Bale. Villas-Boas, therefore, could see in the summer a top striker among his squad, as well as a good amount of money to buy two or three solid reinforcements which should stand them in good stead for a return to the Champions League next season.
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