Is Higuain worth €90m? On-fire Juventus star must score when it really matters

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The Argentine has maintained his remarkable Serie A strike rate since joining from Napoli but he still has to show he can score in the biggest games


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Despite accusing Gonzalo Higuain of being either "a liar or an excellent actor", even Aurelio De Laurentiis acknowledged that the Argentine's €90 million move from Napoli to Juventus wasn't about money - but ambition.

"Although our [salary] offer was higher, he went to Juventus," the Partenopei president recently revealed. "He’ll have considered his age and a team is the favourite to win the Scudetto. Maybe he was also thinking about winning the Champions League."

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There is absolutely no doubt that he was - and Juve were, too. Only two months before, the Bianconeri had claimed their fifth consecutive Serie A title. A historic sixth Scudetto in succession was an obvious target - but the Champions League was the priority.

It is now 21 years since the Old Lady last conquered the continent. For a club of Juve's size, status and ambition, that is a drought bordering on embarrassing. Hence, the bold decision to make the 28-year-old Higuain the third most expensive player of all time.

However, such an extravagant outlay will only be justified in football terms if the River Plate product fires the Bianconeri to European glory.

Gonzalo Higuain Champions League Stats PS

Certainly, Higuain has the ability to do just that. There are few more prolific predators on the planet. He has scored 90 times in just 129 Serie A games. Last year, he set a new goals record (36) for a single season. Even more impressively, he did so in just 35 outings.

Even in La Liga, his goals-to-game average was just over one every two games. However, what he did not do for Real Madrid was score freely in the Champions League - and this is where the doubts surrounding Higuain's proficiency come into play.

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Higuain played 48 times in the tournament for los Blancos and scored just nine goals. Worse still, he netted just twice in 20 knockout games – and even those two goals came against CSKA, in a last 16 tie in 2011-12, and Galatasaray, the following year, while Madrid were already 2-0 up in their quarter-final tie. And this the argument most often levelled at Higuain: that he does not score when it counts.

He infamously missed massive chances for Argentina in the finals of the 2014 World Cup and 2015 Copa America, as well as a penalty during the shootout in the latter. There was also the squandered spot-kick against Lazio on the final day of the 2014-15 Serie A season that cost Napoli a place in the Champions League.

Gonzalo Higuain Argentina Germany World Cup final

Gonzalo Higuain Argentina Copa America final

He was even mocked about it while on holiday in Ibiza that summer. "You can't even score penalties!" screamed one spurned autograph-hunter. Higuain reacted angrily on that occasion, threatening to rip the head off his accuser before being dragged away by a friend.

However, since that ugly episode, Higuain has been addressing his reputation as a big-game bottler at Juve in the best possible fashion. Indeed, he started straight away, netting the winner just seven minutes after coming off the bench in his new club's season-opener against Fiorentina last August - and this, after being dismissed as not only over-rated but also overweight.

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There have also been decisive - and even more important - strikes against Juve's two closest Scudetto challengers, Napoli and Roma, as well as city rivals Torino. In total, Higuain has earned Juve an additional 12 points already this season and he is presently on a sensational run of 12 goals in his last 10 Serie A games.

What his coach and colleagues have been most taken with, though, is his attitude and application.

"Higuain is an extraordinary finisher," Allegri mused a fortnight ago, "but we always knew that. The really impressive thing is how hard he works for the team."

Indeed, winger Juan Cuadrado has claimed that the sight of Higuain chasing down defenders inspired him to work harder, while centre-half Giorgio Chiellini says that he has been pleasantly surprised by both Higuain the player and Higuain the man.

Gonzalo Higuain Giorgio Chiellini PS

“You always expect strikers to be a bit egotistical, but instead I met a generous person," the Italy international enthused. "As a player he’s even stronger than I expected: a real animal on the pitch with extraordinary qualities.

"If you had a 'Higuain Cam' on him throughout the match, you’d see that in 90 per cent of the attacking moves he is alone in the box and that’s not because the defenders are falling asleep.

"Before the ball arrives, he makes two or three movements and counter-movements to shake off his marker. Pay attention next time.

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"All this talk about his weight is ridiculous. Gonzalo is explosive and has such strength in his legs. If he sees a chance, you can’t keep up with him over 10-15 metres. He’s remarkable.

"He may have had a reputation elsewhere, but so far his attitude with us has been perfect."

Whether he is "a liar or an excellent actor", Higuain has made an excellent impression on his new team-mates. The challenge now, though, will to be play his part in Juve winning the Champions League. The defining role of his career starts in Porto on Wednesday night.

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