Is Gonzalo Higuain Misunderstood?
Although considered one of the most prolific strikers of his generation, Gonzalo Higuain has become a bit of a meme in recent years. How did this happen and is his career warranted this narrative?
When going down the list of great goalscorers of the 21st Century, oftentimes Gonzalo Higuain is overlooked.
Now, it would be a tad bit ludicrous to compare him to Messi or Ronaldo, but the former Argentina international has a goal scoring record that puts him in a league of his own.
At Real Madrid, he scored 107 goals in 190 appearances.
During the 2015-16 campaign at Napoli, Higuain scored 36 goals, setting the record for most goals scored in a season.
His second season at Juventus saw him score 24 goals in 32 appearances, even when the 33-year-old’s attacking output slowed down, like any team he’s played on, he still managed to be a constant presence for the Italian giants.
But, in recent years, he’s been subjected to casual jokes about his weight and memes about his lack of finishing ability. While yes, some of the quips about his inability to finish are true at times, as an avid watcher of Inter Miami, I find that Higuain has been influential in other ways than just goal scoring.
Gonzalo Higuain is a fantastic footballer.
So, I often wonder, what happened for his legacy to get to this point?
Don’t Cry for me Argentina…
If you’re Argentinian or a fan of the Argentinan National Men’s Team, I urge you to stop reading now, this one will hurt a little…
It’s well known that Higuain has had three very high profile misses at international tournaments for La Albiceleste, perhaps the worst of these happened during the World Cup Final back in 2014 vs Germany.
Watch it if you dare..:
Yeah, that was pretty difficult to see.
From that point on, Higuain has been haunted by the ghosts of his past. These misses have manifested themselves into a beast that continues to follow the 33-year-old to this day.
It has gotten to a point where it’s hard to divorce himself from the narrative that he’s prone to big misses.
Higuain is a player that needs to be surrounded by people who give him confidence, he’s even said as much in an interview with Fox Sports back in early 2019:
“When you criticise someone maliciously, it hurts everyone…..I gave everything for the national team. It’s one thing to say that we did not achieve our objectives, but when people talk about failure it’s very hard.”
Of course, everyone knows that he should’ve done better, I’m sure Higuain would admit this himself, but it would be dishonest to disregard the incredible things he’s achieved in his career because of these blunders.
That is a large part why he retired from the national team when he did, not only did it take a toll on his mental health, but I can only imagine it gets tiring being the scapegoat on a team where you’re playing alongside one of the best players in the world.
Yes, he should’ve done more, but at the end of the day, retiring was probably the best option for him.
How Gonzalo Got His Groove Back?
Inter Miami had a woeful 2020.
For all of the expectations that the South Floridian club had, the results on the pitch were beyond disappointing.
The club is in for a major overhaul during the off-season, in all likelihood, Higuain will be the focal point of this “rebuild.”
Since signing for La Rosa Negra back in September, the 33-year-old’s impact on the field can’t be understated.
Yes, he’s played in 9 games and only managed to score once, off a free-kick, but his off the ball movement and ability to create space for players like Lewis Morgan and Rodolfo Pizarro brought a different dynamic to a sputtering Miami attack.
Take Pizarro’s goal against FC Dallas for example:
While Miami may have lost the match, this goal is a prime example of what Higuain brings to Inter Miami.
Higuain’s ability to drop deep, collect the ball, and slot through players who make runs into the 18-yard-box will be key to Miami having a more successful 2021 season.
Even off the pitch, Higuain’s influence has done wonders for some of the younger players on Miami’s roster. After the team’s win against the New York Red Bulls back in October, 20-year-old Matias Pellegrini had this to say about the elder Argentinian’s leadership in the locker room:
Honestly, it great to have him here. Sometimes I can't believe I'm playing with someone like him. He's a [*crack] and I'm very happy he's here with us."
In the end, it does appear that Higuain is enjoying his football again. In an interview with Luis Miguel Echegaray from CBS Sports, the 33-year-old spoke about how moving to MLS has helped him enjoy his football again:
“I wanted to come here with the intention of being happy to play again and I think Inter Miami gave me everything I needed. Coming here to this league, gives me that feeling again, back when I was a kid enjoying playing, where in Europe I think that left me for many different reasons.”
Gonzalo Higuain is a great soccer player.
His career has been filled with joy and controversy. His arrival in MLS was met with celebrations and skepticism.
Whatever side you choose in the “Great Gonzalo Higuain Debate,” you’d be right! Yes, there were times, especially during his international career that he should’ve done better. Yes, there were times with Inter Miami where he should’ve scored more, but, you can’t deny that Higuain is a special talent.
His clutch goal against Inter back in 2018 and his late free-kick winner for Inter Miami against the Red Bulls back in October shows that “Pipita” is more than just a meme. He’s a player that needs to be surrounded by people who believe in him.
As he celebrates his 33rd birthday today, this post serves as a reminder to appreciate the good that Higuain has done throughout his career and to look forward to what he can achieve not only for Inter Miami but in MLS as a whole.