The trophy-laden Silvio Berlusconi era at AC Milan came to an end before the beginning of the 2017/18 campaign, and supporters were truly optimistic about what was to happen next. The Rossoneri looked set to become the next of Europe’s super-rich sides financed by a foreign investor, Chinese businessman YongHong Li coming in and immediately splashing the cash on a number of expensive signings.
However, those purchases would ultimately end in disappointment, just as the new owner turned out to be a fraud. The next summer window was a more anxious one as a so-called US “vulture fund” named Elliott management effectively repossessed the club when Li reneged on his debt to them, and supporters were concerned that another new owner would end up embarking on an asset-stripping exercise in order to recover their hefty outlay.
Yet Elliott would soon make their intentions to run the club in a sensible manner very clear, and thoughts quickly turned to the next issue of the team’s desperate need for a prolific striker.
Then Gonzalo Higuain fell right into their laps.
It was a move that no-one expected, one that only came about through a bizarre chain of events. Juventus would have certainly hung on to their number nine if it weren’t for the unexpected arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo and the vocal desire of Milan centre-back Leonardo Bonucci to return to Turin after just one season away.
While Higuain played more of a team role in the Old Lady’s star-studded side, a move to Milan was billed as his chance to return to his prolific spell at Napoli in which the Argentina international broke the Serie A single season goal scoring record with 36 domestic strikes. Yet he would come up with a blank in tough opening matches versus former side Napoli and AS Roma, giving Rossoneri supporters more reason to bite their nails.
Had Juventus moved on a 30-year-old that was past his best? Would he join Nikola Kalinic and Andre Silva as yet another striker who would fail to live up to expectations in the famous red and black stripes? Luckily for Milan fans, any such worries were soon brushed aside as Higuain rescued his side’s blushes after they went 1-0 down to Cagliari in their third match, firing in the equaliser on 55 minutes.
That strike would open the floodgates, the Argentine having scored in each consecutive match since, finding the net versus Dudelange and Olympiacos in the Europa League and Atalanta in Serie A. His best performance however, was during last Sunday’s 3-1 home win over Chievo Verona, Higuain combining well with winger Suso to score a brace as Milan seem to be finally finding their feet this term.
“The performances were always there, we were just missing the three points. The worst performance was on Thursday against Olympiacos,” Rossoneri boss Gennaro Gattuso told Sky Italia after that victory. We made mistakes again today, gifting their goal, but we always want to play the ball. This wasn’t a team in crisis before, it just struggled to kill off games after good performances.
“Higuain is a champion,” he continued. “A great finisher, a lad who at this moment is working really hard for the group, is demanding and also well-loved.”
The number nine demonstrated what a deadly finisher he is versus Chievo, his two goals coming from just four shots, but his overall contribution highlighted a skill honed at his previous club Juventus. There, he simply had to adopt a willingness to work for the team, and he would also create two scoring chances for team-mates and complete 26 from 28 attempts to pass the ball last Sunday.
— Eleven Sports (@ElevenSports_UK) October 7, 2018
That Gattuso’s men have begun to pick up points and come into form just before the international break is ideal in terms of timing, and the form of Higuain has been key in this regard. Next up comes the Milan derby – a highly anticipated match viewed worldwide – and a chance for Higuain to do what he does best.
At Milan and Inter’s shared San Siro home both Higuain and his opposite number Mauro Icardi will do battle to grab the headlines with their goal scoring prowess, a fascinating opportunity for the man wearing red and black to truly cement his return to top form.
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