Gonzalo Higuain: ‘Personal ambitions’ motivated Juventus switch from Napoli
Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain offered an olive branch to disgruntled Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri and well as fans of the club amid claims his controversial move to the Turin giants was motivated by money.
Higuain, who hit a new Serie A record of 36 league goals last season, joined Juventus earlier this week on a five-year deal worth €90m (Dh366m) that will make him the league’s highest-paid player on an estimated annual salary of €7.5m.
Although the transfer itself had Napoli fans in a fizz, Higuain’s failure to offer thanks and farewells to Napoli and their passionate tifosi has gone down like a lead balloon in the southern Italian city.
At his official unveiling in Turin on Thursday, the 28-year-old Argentine claimed he meant no offence to the club he has helped revive in three, mostly positive seasons in Naples.
Sarri, credited with squeezing the best out of Higuain in his first season in the hot seat last campaign, was reportedly miffed the Argentine did not even call him.
Higuain explained: “It was my choice to uphold this silence in what was a quiet period for me. I didn’t want to think about anything, I just wanted to be on holiday with my family and friends.
“But he (Sarri) was very important for me and helped me to grow. I send him my best wishes from here. I apologise, the only thing I can say to him is ‘thanks’.”
Napoli’s fans might be more difficult to placate.
The club Diego Maradona helped steer to title success in 1987 and 1990 is renowned for its fervent support, even when the chips are down.
But on the day his transfer was announced, Napoli supporters posted pictures of Higuain’s shirt being thrown into the toilet. Others turned to social media to lament having tattoos of their hero inked onto their arms and legs.
Higuain said he meant no offence, adding: “I was in shutdown mode, but now I can explain. I had three great years in Napoli, so I can understand people are angry with me ... I saw the insults.
“But I made this choice because of my own personal ambitions. And I’m happy I made the move. Now, all I’m thinking about is Juve.”
At Juventus, Higuain’s reported annual salary will see him overtake AS Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi as the league’s highest paid player.
For Italian icon and one-club man Francesco Totti, who is set to play his final season with Roma, Higuain’s move is a “disaster” that smacks more of “business than passion”.
“Look at what’s happened now with Gonzalo Higuain leaving Napoli for Juventus. It’s a disaster,” said Totti.
“But, it’s completely normal now that when a foreigner comes to Italy he has the possibility of going to another team to make more money.”
When asked to comment on Totti’s stinging assessment, Higuain replied: “I’ve got no comment to make about that. All I can say is he’s a great player.”
Juventus begin their bid for a record sixth consecutive title, and a third consecutive league and cup double, when they host Fiorentina on August 20.
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Updated: July 29, 2016 04:00 AM