Napoli have moved swiftly to deny reports their star centre-forward Gonzalo Higuain is on the verge of completing a switch to Barcelona.
According to Marca (h/t 101 Great Goals), the Argentinian international is “about to become a new player of Barca,” but the Naples outfit took to Twitter to deny the deal. The Coppa Italia winners claimed the rumours were “entirely unfounded” and were based on a “lack of foundation,” per Alex Richards of The Mirror:
The denial from Napoli comes amid a host of contrasting reports about the player's future, with Marca also claiming Higuain is “on the brink of Barcelona” in a separate report, whereas Spanish newspaper Sport told CalcioNapoli24.it (h/t Alex Richards of The Mirror) that the Catalan club have no interest in bringing the player to the Camp Nou.
Here’s Marca's front page courtesy of 101 Great Goals, which claims Higuain has already given the green light on a move to Barcelona:
Higuain is currently at the World Cup, where he came off the bench to help Argentina secure a 2-1 win in their tournament opener against Bosnia-Herzegovina. After the match, the Napoli man was pressed on the rumours, and he admitted it would be a “great joy” to join up with Lionel Messi in Catalonia, as noted here by Barcastuff:
Higuain (Napoli): "Barça rumours? Every player likes to be linked with them. But I don't know anything, I'm focused on World Cup now."— barcastuff (@barcastuff) June 16, 2014
Higuain (Napoli): "Would I like to play with Messi? Yes, of course. I enjoy playing with him at the national team, so it'd be a great joy."— barcastuff (@barcastuff) June 16, 2014
The signing of Higuain would perhaps be the biggest indicator yet that Barcelona are looking to pursue different stylistic mantras under the new boss Luis Enrique.
The Argentinian striker is very much an orthodox centre-forward, and that could see a change in system for Barcelona, and a change in role for Messi too, who usually occupies the false No. 9 role. But don’t expect much deviation from the staunch passing principles instilled by a host of Enrique’s predecessors; it's a style that would suit Higuain perfectly.
Higuain is an excellent technician and is a forward who possesses a wonderfully rounded set of attributes. He can score goals for sure, but during his time at Napoli he has revelled in the added responsibility of linking the play and creating chances too.
Here’s some of the best moments from Higuain’s first season in Italy:
Having spent just one year away from Real Madrid, a move to their archrivals Barcelona surely wouldn’t go down particularly well in the capital, and if Higuain was to make the switch, he’d be sure to receive a hostile reception on his return to the Bernabeu.
But after losing Edinson Cavani last summer and investing heavily to bring Higuain to Naples, you have to wonder whether Napoli would be keen on letting a player of the Argentinian’s calibre walk away from the club after just one season.
Should Barcelona go all out for Higuain?
Rafa Benitez will be looking to build on a solid first season with the Partenopei—where they finished third in Serie A and won the Coppa Italia—but there is no way they can move forward if they sell arguably their best player for what would be the second summer in a row.
Napoli chairman Aurelio de Laurentiis is a fierce negotiator when it comes to selling the club’s players, and if they were to cash in on Higuain, you can guarantee it would be for big, big money. But the bright lights of Barcelona will be tough to resist for the striker and, if we’re to read into his aforementioned quotes in the wake of the speculation, he’d certainly be privy to a move back to Spain.
With contrasting reports emerging from a variety of different outlets, it’s difficult to fully ascertain how likely this deal is of going through. But if Barcelona are just as keen on signing Higuain as he seems to be on joining them, expect yet another talented Argentinian forward to be donning the Blaugrana strip come the start of next season.