How brilliant is Juventus' Gonzalo Higuaín?

"He's an animal in the penalty box," said Gonzalo Higuaín's Juventus team-mate Leonardo Bonucci; gives due respect to the Argentinian with a pronounced nose for goal.

©Getty Images

In the hunt for the ESM Golden Shoe once more, having come close with 36 goals for Napoli in 2015/16, Gonzalo Higuaín is quite some player; counts his blessings.

What they say
"He's a top striker. The most important things is his movement – it is that of a very intelligent forward. He makes the other attackers' lives easy because he plays in behind and opens up a lot of space."
José Mourinho, former Real Madrid coach

"I will treat him like a son who made his father extremely angry. You can get angry as anything but then you always forgive your son. I owe him a lot because he had an incredible season with me. He made me angry [when he decided to leave] but that's in the past."
Maurizio Sarri, Napoli coach

"He goes crazy when he does not score. It's in his nature. I remember a match where we were both on the bench and he didn't have any nails left by the end. He told me he just had to score when he came on. It's all he thinks about."
Patrice Evra, former Juventus team-mate

Watch five great goals from Gonzalo Higuaín
Watch five great goals from Gonzalo Higuaín

"'Pipa' is a phenomenon. He's an animal in the penalty box. You don't want anyone else with the ball at their feet in the penalty box: he will score."
Leonardo Bonucci, Juventus defender

"If you had a 'Higuaín cam' throughout a match, you'd see that for 90% of our attacking moves he is alone in the box, and that's not because the defenders switch off. Before the ball arrives, he makes two or three movements and counter-movements to shake off his marker."
Giorgio Chiellini, Juventus defender

Current tally
International: 67 appearances, 31 goals
UEFA club competition: 84 appearances, 26 goals
European domestic competition: 363 appearances, 209 goals

Claims to fame
Real Madrid
• Following a move from River Plate, he scored his first Real Madrid goal in a derby against Atlético – a 1-1 in February 2007.

Higuaín with Madrid in 2007
Higuaín with Madrid in 2007©Getty Images

• Reaching his peak with the club, he bagged all four Madrid goals in a 4-3 victory over Málaga in November 2008.

• Registered more Liga goals than team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009/10, ending the campaign with 27; Lionel Messi (34) was the only player to outscore him in Spain's top division that season.

• A title winner for the third time in 2011/12, he claimed his 100th Liga goal in February 2013, against Deportivo. Left for Napoli in summer 2013 with a final tally of 121 goals in 164 Madrid outings in all competitions.

• Signed to replace Paris Saint-Germain-bound Edinson Cavani, 'El Pipita' notched 17 Serie A goals and won the Coppa Italia in his first term in Italy; then registered twice from open play (and again in the shoot-out) as Napoli beat Juventus on penalties to take the 2014 Italian Super Cup.

Higuaín in full flow for Napoli
Higuaín in full flow for Napoli©AFP/Getty Images

• Having struck 35 times in his first two Serie A campaigns combined, Higuaín hit a stunning 36 in 35 games in 2015/16, a last-day hat-trick enabling him to break the 66-year single-season record of AC Milan great Gunnar Nordahl. "I had such an immense desire to beat this record," he said after that treble against Frosinone.

• Averaged over 30 goals a season in all competitions in his three years with Napoli: 91 in 146 matches.

• Netted 15 goals in Europe to go joint second in Napoli's all-time European leading scorers list – level with Marek Hamšík; only Cavani, with 19, scored more.

Higuaín is scoring regularly for Juventus
Higuaín is scoring regularly for Juventus©Getty Images

• Following a €90m transfer – the most expensive in Italian history – he scored on his Juventus debut in a 2-1 success over Fiorentina.

• Sang the praises of Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri as he moved on, saying: "Sarri has been a great coach for me, and if he's angry about me leaving without saying goodbye to him, then I apologise – I can only thank him."

• Equalled his previous best run by hitting the target in six straight Serie A fixtures from 11 December 2016 to 29 January 2017.

What you might not know
• Like David Trezeguet, Higuaín was born in France to Argentinian parents; unlike Trezeguet, he chose to represent Argentina at senior level.

• The forward was born in Brest, Brittany, in 1987 while his father, defender Jorge Higuaín, was playing for Stade Brestois. His father was nicknamed 'Pipa' for his supposedly big nose; thus, his son was dubbed 'Pipita' (approximate translation: little big nose).

• Has football on both sides of his family. His mother, Nancy Zacarías – a painter of Palestinian extraction – had two footballing brothers, most notably Claudio Zacarías, who suffered a serious hand injury while playing for San Lorenzo when a bomb went off in their dressing room. His determination to play again was an inspiration to Higuaín.

• A bout of meningitis when he was a ten-month-old baby ensured his relationship with his mother is especially close. "Since I developed meningitis, my relationship with my mother is special," he said.

• His older brother Federico is also a striker, currently playing in the United States with Columbus Crew. The 32-year-old – once of Beşiktaş – is three years older but 12cm shorter than Gonzalo.

Higuaín after scoring for Argentina
Higuaín after scoring for Argentina©AFP/Getty Images

• Is one of just three foreign-born players to have represented Argentina at a FIFA World Cup, along with Spanish-born Pedro Suárez and Paraguayan-born Constantino Urbieta Sosa.

• His hat-trick against South Korea in 2010 made him only the third Argentinian to claim a treble at a World Cup final tournament after Guillermo Stabile in 1930 and Gabriel Batistuta in 1998.

• Gained some interesting scars during his first season at Napoli, requiring eight stitches (to his jaw and eyebrow) after slipping and falling onto rocks while relaxing in a boat off the gulf of Naples.

What he says
"As Van Nistelrooy used to tell me, goals are like ketchup. If you try too hard, they won't come. And when they do come out, they all come at once."

"Is football like art? Of course. When you score a beautiful goal, from a move of five to six passes that your opponents fail to stop, that's art.

"It's hunger that makes you win, even if you've done it before. I don't feel any pressure. In fact, it's a privilege for me to think Juventus bought me when they were thinking about winning in Europe."

Diego Maradona: another ex-Napoli man who scored a few
Diego Maradona: another ex-Napoli man who scored a few©Getty Images

What he might achieve yet
• The Scudetto and the UEFA Champions League are the main trophies still missing from Higuaín's cabinet; can he pick one up this season?

***• Second behind 40-goal Luis Suárez in the race for the 2016 ESM Golden Shoe, Higuaín has another chance to win it this season; with 19 goals, he trails frontrunner Lionel Messi by two.

• With 31 strikes for Argentina, Higuaín is just three shy of Diego Maradona and four off Hernan Crespo in third place; Messi (57) and Gabriel Batistuta (56) hold the top spots.