Eyebrows were raised when Juventus signed Gonzalo Higuain last summer for a few reasons, but none more so than the huge €90 million price tag that was attached to the procedure. The argument for signing Higuain was that he would be the final piece to Juventus rejoining the elite of European football puzzle. Cardiff was supposed to be the stage of vindication for club and player. However, the Old Lady left the field wondering what went wrong.
And where did it go wrong? Simply put, against Real Madrid we were reminded why Karim Benzema was the man chosen to stay and lead the line for Los Galaticos and Higuain was discarded. If ever you find yourself in a debate about who the better footballer is, just show them this game’s footage and walk away confident in your victory. Yes, in regards to goal tally’s Higuain out performed his former teammate this season, but let there be no mistake, he is not Karim’s equal.
Don’t try to spare his blushes with arguments about his teammates letting him down either, because while the midfield was outclassed in the second half, their €90 million dollar man did himself nor his team no favours. Higuain saw enough of the ball to make an impact. No player was dispossessed more than Higuain (4) and his pass success rate of 73% was the lowest on his team. When his team needed someone to play to hold up the ball and connect with his teammates he was unable to come through with the goods. For €90 million that’s not good enough.
Was it worth it? In isolation it would probably appear that way wouldn’t it. 32 goals in 54 appearances isn’t too shabby but at the end of the day Juventus ended the season with the same two trophies they won at a cantor a year ago. The prize Higuain was supposed to deliver eluded them and they didn’t truly look like they were close to securing it.
Spare a moment for Paulo Dybala. The former Palermo man had a ‘good’ season; yet based on the standards set last season it’s hard not to be disappointed. When Higuain joined last summer confusion was expressed as to why Juventus would spend such a sum of money on Higuain when they already possessed a more talented Argentine attacker who could do it all. Following a breakout season, the sensible thing surely would have been to reaffirm and strengthen the Juventus team around the precious talent that is Dybala. Quite how diminishing Dybala’s role to build a system set up for Higuain to score made sense to Massimiliano Allegri we will probably never know.
One would have naturally expected Dybala to kick on and ascend to a higher level. However, that has not been the case. Being demoted from being the main man in the final third may have improved his passing (there were rises in total passes, forward passes, and successful passes) but in the categories of goals, assists, chances created, total shots, dribbles and times he was fouled, there sadly existed regression. Such a shame for a player who has displayed all the attributes required to be the focal point for an elite team.
It will be interesting to see where Juventus go from here. A domestic double they would have won without any significant investment feels underwhelming and the drawing board will surely be revisited this summer as they look to claim Europe’s top prize.