SERIE A | NAPOLI

Higuaín's form has the Azzurri dreaming of Maradona

Napoli fans are hoping the Argentinean can emulate his compatriot and lead the side to Scudetto glory in his third season at the San Paolo.

Higuaín's form has the Azzurri dreaming of Maradona
MARCO BERTORELLO AFP

“Higuaín? As far as I’m concerned he’s the best centre forward in the world. If he doesn’t win himself a Ballon d’Or he’s an idiot.” When Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri gave this opinion on December 5 many people thought he’s perhaps gone too far, that maybe he was talking with his tongue in his cheek… however, as the saying in Italy goes: “Time is a gentleman.”

With 22 goals in 22 Serie A games, Higuaín is the leading scorer in Italy by a huge margin (10 goals more than his closest challengers Paulo Dybala and Éder) and also leads the Golden Boot standing.

Never in his career has the Argentina striker hit so many goals in such a short space of time and now his coach’s words don’t seem so outlandish: Higuaín credits Sarri for his performance level, as the coach has constructed his side around his number nine. It’s all a far cry from last summer, when Higuaín missed a penalty for Napoli against Lazio (which meant the side missed out on qualification for the Champions League playoffs) and another against Chile in the Copa América final, it seemed that his Italian adventure was drawing to a close. The humble former coach of Empoli, though, had other ideas and Higuaín later admitted it took him “five minutes” to decide to stay.

Today Higuaín is happy and settled in Naples. And if there were any doubts, aside from his goal-scoring record, it is sufficient to watch his all-round game: running, fighting, smiling and after every victory going to the Curva B section of the San Paolo support to bask in their admiration. For the Napoli fans, Higuaín is the heir to Maradona and they are hoping that history will repeat itself. In his third season in Naples the Cosmic Barrel inspired Napoli to their first Scudetto and this is Higuaín’s third season at the San Paolo.

For the first time since Maradona left the club, Napoli are top of Serie A. Juventus are breathing down their necks but with Higuaín in this form – if he continues to score at his current rate he’ll break the Serie A record held by Gunnar Nordahl of 35 in 37 games – the Azzurri can dare to dream.