Gonzalo Higuain will not be renewing his current contract with Napoli and has rejected offers from the club for an extension, his agent Nicolas Higuain said in an interview with Radio Continental.
The Argentine No.9, who scored a record 36 Serie A goals last season, will be moving on at the end of his contract in 2018 unless a transfer bid is initiated by interested clubs.
Higuain was signed by Napoli in 2013 for €40 million from Real Madrid amidst interest from Arsenal. El Pipita was received with much local excitement because of legendary Argentine Diego Maradona’s history in Naples. Higuain came to Italy on the back of 121 goals from 263 matches for Real Madrid in 7 seasons with the La Liga giants.
He reached double figures in his last five seasons with the club, scored more than 20 goals in three seasons, and finished as La Liga top scorer in 2010. Higuain scored 4 goals in Argentina’s run to the final, where they lost 4-2 on penalties after a goalless 90 minutes and extra-time.
The news of Lionel Messi’s retirement from international football made the headlines but Higuain was equally culpable, if not more, because of a couple of half-decent chances missed to put Argentina in the lead during the match. According to Radio Continental, he said:
“It’s their right to ask for his buyout clause, but we will opt for the path of not renewing the contract and he will be free in 2018. In these conditions we are going to respect the contract that we have with Napoli but we are not going to renew it under any circumstances. Gonzalo is super professional and will continue to give the maximum.”, said Nicolas who is also the striker’s brother.
The refusal of a contract extension means Napoli can either sell him for his current buyout clause which comes to about €90 million or risk letting him go at the end of his contract in 2018 on a free transfer. However, the valuation is pretty high for the 28-year-old and would put most clubs off, despite his proven record as a goalscorer in Italy and Spain.
Arsene Wenger is on the lookout for a striker after Danny Welbeck’s fresh injury and Theo Walcott’s inconsistent performances as backup striker for Olivier Giroud. Higuain brings plenty of Champions League experience with Real Madrid, besides providing a constant goal threat with direct running at deep lying opposition backlines.
Higuain has been criticized for his performances in big games, missing sitters in both the World Cup final against Germany in 2014 and in the Copa America finals. At the club level, he has scored just over 200 goals in his last eight seasons besides exhibiting a genuine talent to hold the ball upfield and create space for wingers and attacking midfielders like Lorenzo Insigne and Marek Hamsik at Napoli.
Napoli will be eager to cash in on the striker but if Arsenal do manage to sign him, it would be a club record transfer. The current record transfer for a Gunner is last season’s league-leader in assists, Mesut Ozil, who was signed in 2013 for €50 million. With the arrival of managers like Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, the Premier League is definitely going to get tougher and this begs the question: Will this finally be the season that Wenger breaks the bank to bring the Premier League title to the Emirates?