The most underachieving player of his era

Recently, many notable transfers have been taking place. Many elite players have switched clubs in hopes of better pay, a better chance of winning titles, or both.

One of the transfers which generated considerable interest was that of Gonzalo Higuain, who moved from Juventus to AC Milan.

Now, it’s not as if Higuain has had a poor career by any means. He has scored 218 league goals in major European leagues, won five league titles and four domestic cups, finished as high as second in the European Golden Shoe rankings, and even reached the final of the World Cup.

Yet for all of this, in so many ways, Higuain’s career can also be described as extremely disappointing.

On many an occasion, he has failed to show up on the biggest stages of all.

He only made the final of the Champions League once, with Juventus in 2017. In this match, Juve were soundly beaten by Real Madrid, losing 4-1, and Real had no trouble at all keeping their former striker at bay.

This was not the first time Higuain had underperformed in an important final.

In the final of the 2015 Copa America, Higuain’s Argentina team faced off against Chile, a team the Albiceleste were expected to beat with minimal trouble.

Higuain started on the bench but came on as a substitute for Sergio Aguero in the 74th minute. The match was eventually decided via a penalty shootout, which was won by Chile.

One of the players who missed his penalty was Gonzalo Higuain.

Just one year later, it appeared that the then-Napoli striker had a chance for revenge, as in the final of the same tournament, Argentina once again played against Chile, and Higuain was in the starting line-up this time.

Unfortunately, Higuain played so poorly that he was pulled from the game in the 70th minute. This time, the roles were reversed as it was Aguero who replaced him.

Once again, Argentina went on to lose on penalties, and, almost as if to rub salt into Higuain’s wounds, Aguero converted his penalty in the shootout.

Of course, the most glaring example of Higuain’s underachievement when the pressure was at its greatest occurred in the final of the 2014 World Cup, when Argentina played Germany.

After having been set up by Lionel Messi, Higuain had a chance which most would have expected him to have converted. However, he ended up pushing it wide, and was later substituted with Rodrigo Palacio replacing him.

Argentina went on to lose 1-0 in extra time.

That makes for a total of four consecutive major finals, four losses, and four below-par performances by Gonzalo Higuain.

Furthermore, despite his previously-mentioned gaudy goalscoring totals, he has never truly been able to be quite the right fit at any club he’s ever been with, and teams seem to get better after he leaves them.

Even as a youngster, when Higuain left River Plate for Real Madrid, River Plate won the Clausura in the next season.

The year after he left Real to join Napoli, Real won the Champions League.

Although Napoli finished third in Serie A the season after Higuain left, a spot lower than in the previous seasons, they garnered four more points than in the previous campaign, and also advanced further in the Coppa Italia, reaching the semifinals. They also had the misfortune of running into the greatest club team of all time in Real Madrid in the Champions League’s round of 16.

This hasn’t just happened for his club.

In World Cup qualifying, Argentina were struggling to even qualify for the tournament. In fact, they only qualified for the tournament on the final match day of qualifying. However, after Higuain was dropped as one of Argentina’s starters, the team’s fortunes began to turn for the better.

Just to reiterate, Higuain has had a solid career. He has already done things many players can only dream of. Five league titles, a World Cup final appearance, hundreds of goals – those achievements must certainly be respected.

However, when all is said and done, the career of Gonzalo Higuain will be remembered as one which never came close to reaching the levels that it could have, a fact that even the most fervent backers of “El Pipita” must admit.

Eu Weijun works at FMT.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.