Gonzalo Higuain is a name that Juventus had been linked with Juventus in past transfer windows, back when he was at Real Madrid. However, a deal with Real Madrid just could not have been done, partly due to our relative lack of market prowess at the time. Napoli's influx from their sale of Edinson Cavani to Paris-Saint Germain meant that they had the means to meet Real's asking price and they got it done.
But, oh how times have changed! Juventus currently seem to be loaded and able to play with the big boys on the transfer market playground. And now it seems that Juve are going back in for the man they missed out on three summers ago, back to the playground armed with a handful of sand to throw in someone's eyes and a mean mug to show they mean business.
There's no doubting that Gonzalo Higuain is a goal-scoring phenomenon. The Argentine has been prolific for both Real Madrid — despite not always being the first choice — and now Napoli. But would he be worth the significant outlay it would take to pry him away from Juve's closest rival, who would certainly not be willing to deal? Such a deal can have a seismic impact on the landscape of the already weakened Serie A competition.
You've read the arguments in favor of a move for Higuain, now here are some against a potential transfer.
Huge outlay for a soon-to-be 29-year-old
It is undeniable that the striker would make Juventus an immeasurably more potent force. However, €94 million is a ridiculous amount of money to spend for any one player, much less for one that is just one year removed from celebrating his "Dirty 30." Giuseppe Marotta has repeatedly stated that the goal is to make this team younger. After the signings of 33-year-old Dani Alves and 29-year-old Medhi Benatia, how does signing a soon-to-be 29-year-old make the team younger? And when you consider that his purchase would likely be funded by the sales/exchanges of the 25-year-old Simone Zaza, 25-year-old Roberto Pereyra, and 23-year-old Stefano Sturaro, the average age of the team shoots up drastically.
He's a notorious choker
World Cup 2014. Copa America 2015. Copa America Centenario 2016.
Argentina would be champions of all three of these, rather than runners-up, if it wasn't for key Higuain misses (most definitely for Copa America 2015, as that chance and miss was right at the end of the game). Higuain has garnered a reputation for being a "big-game bottler." And sure, he'll get us loads of goals against your Atalantas, Chievos and the like, but what about the Bayerns and Barcelonas of the world and in key games in Europe? I'm not so comfortable with the thought of Higuain leading the line in a major final. Could you imagine that after forking out all that dosh, Juventus make it to the Champions League final, and Higuain is presented with a game-winning chance? I can already picture myself screaming at and flipping off the TV screen in anger and amazement at another classic Higuain miss.
What it would mean for the rest of the league
As someone who is old enough to remember Serie A's heyday, it hurts to see the current status of the league. There was a time when every club, from the big boys to the newly promoted teams, could count on having at least a handful of truly quality players on their rosters. But those days have long been gone.
Despite having the second most lucrative television deal (by some distance behind the English Premier League, though), the money in the Italian game seems quite paltry by comparison. You see mid and lower table EPL clubs regularly outbidding top Serie A clubs. Serie A clubs are regularly losing their best players to other clubs across the continent. That's bad enough; the last thing the league needs is for Juve to do an inside job and further weaken the competition of the league by stockpiling talent from their rivals. The Bianconeri have already signed Miralem Pjanic from Roma, and Mehdi Benatia (who is only a few years removed from being a Roma player). While Higuain's signing would be immense for Juve, I'd think not so much for the rest of the league. And yes, Napoli would have €94 million to spend, but who can they get that can fill the hole that Higuain would leave and simultaneously make the league better? A weakened Napoli, and Serie A by extension, means that they perform poorly in European competition, further bringing down the Serie A coefficient.
Putting Juventus aside, is that really the best move for all of Serie A?
Is Juve trying to become Rosenborg (the Norwegian giants who won 13 consecutive titles from 1991 to 2004)?
Alternatively, one may argue that Higuain seems set on leaving Napoli this season anyway, and if not for Juve it would likely be for another big club overseas. Therefore wouldn't it be better for the league in the end for Juve to sign him? After all, that would mean a big name staying in the league rather than leaving. To that I'd say, good point, and I really can't argue against that. But maybe we don't sign him, and maybe he stays. And maybe it forces Napoli and other supposed top Serie A clubs to take a long look at themselves and realize that they really need to get their act together to stop Juve cannibalizing their talent.
After all, if Juve could come back from the ignominy of the Calciopoli scandal to be where they're at today, then it shouldn't be that hard for a lot of these clubs who were unpunished — or in some cases, even benefitted (*cough* Inter *cough*) from that scandal — to put some semblance of a coherent plan to return to the top in place.
Time will tell whether Juve are truly serious about this move, or whether they're just stoking flames while they have other stuff in the works. It's going to be a pretty interesting next few weeks though. Watch this space.