Not once but twice. That’s the fate awaiting Gonzalo Higuain as he takes on his former side Napoli twice in a city where he turned from idol to enemy
Zero shots on target.
Zero touches in the opponents’ box.
This, in short, Gonzalo Higuain’s game at the San Paolo on Sunday night. Had he worn a Napoli top, like uncountable times in the past seasons, this would have looked like impossible data. Instead, with a Juventus jersey, Higuain was isolated for 90 minutes in the Serie A encounter between the Partenopei and the Bianconeri, only to be picked on and booed by his former fans.
It’s a weird time for the Argentinian, as destiny has decided to force him to stay in Naples for four whole days, courtesy of the Serie A game followed by the Coppa Italia semifinal second-leg, both to be played at the San Paolo.
The first of the two ended with a 1-1 draw, with Juventus parking the bus and Napoli being ineffective up front. The worst kind of game for the Bianconeri number 9, alone against his former defence and constantly attacked by the Napoli supporters.
Maurizio Sarri was clear: “The boos against Higuain were inevitable”. And rightly so: after scoring the all time record in a single Serie A season (36 goals), the former Real Madrid striker joined Juventus in the summer, leaving Napoli after three seasons. Diego Maradona said he wouldn’t have done it, but it seemed clear that Higuain really wanted to win a trophy, something that he has lacked in his career.
A betrayal, nonetheless. And the unique passion the Napoli fans put behind their players is the same passion they put against their opponents. More so if someone just moved from the Azzurri to Juventus. It doesn’t get a lot worse than this. And Higuain is also forced to essentially be locked in a hotel for four days, in between the two games.
The former River Plate man didn’t seem to suffer from the opposing fans during the match, although he did miss out on checking the pitch condition and came out only for the warm up, to avoid further hostility. The Napoli fans put together a series of booing and some banners – nothing we haven’t seen before on a football pitch – and Higuain put in one of his worst Juventus performances, also due to his team’s overtly defensive attitude.
In the end, it is the Bianconeri who had the last laugh, as Juve can look at the remaining Serie A games with one of the biggest threats behind them. A point in Naples, as underlined by coach Massimiliano Allegri, is crucial. Juventus, and Higuain, maintain a six-point lead over Roma and a 10 point lead on Napoli.
The Argentinian turncoat may not have had his best night, but the Scudetto is another step closer.