Higua-in at Madrid

It took Gonzalo Higuain three attempts, but the Argentine striker eventually managed to beat Diego Lopez between the sticks for Valencia last Sunday night. The finish, which came after a mere 10 minutes, opened the scoring for Real Madrid, in that the first fixture of the season in the defence of their title. The strike was also the perfect anecdote for how times can change dramatically in the nonsensical world of football. 

A week after Madrid’s La Liga triumph in May, there were already strong whispers emerging from the capital suggesting the French-born forward was on his way out the door. A saying the Higuain himself took rather too literally when he was caught on camera walking into a glass door during the team’s Middle Eastern tour later that month. There were legitimate complaints behind a proposed move, however. 

Injuries paved the way for strike-partner Karim Benzema to win over Coach Jose Mourinho, and an apparent falling out with the Portuguese tactician was driving the former River Plate man out. A change of scenery was reported to have appealed to the striker, who has been with the club since 2007, and countless European sides were allegedly already vying for his signature.

Despite an outstanding season, that included 26 goals and 10 assists in 54 appearances for Madrid, it looked like Higuain’s time with the Spanish giants was up. Mourinho continued to insist that he would not leave, and was ultimately forced to call meetings with his representatives, which include his father Jorge, when the situation looked to be reaching breaking point.

After weeks of on-and-off talks and deliberations between several parties which included director Jose Angel Sanchez, in late July it was reported that Higuain would extend his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu until 2016. The move would see him match Benzema’s earnings, increasing his yearly salary from €3.5m to €4.5m after tax.

The official signing is expected to take place next week, under the watchful eye of Madrid’s flamboyant President Florentino Perez. It will take Higuain’s situation full circle, as his successful appearance at the weekend saw him start ahead of Benzema and make it into the club’s record books. The goal brought his tally in a white jersey up to 104, drawing him level with Brazilian Ronaldo and the legendary Luis Molowny at 15 in the outfit’s all-time scoring charts.

In the space of three months, Higuain has gone from leaving the club to making history for it. While the transfer market has become as unpredictable as ever, it looks as if the fan favourite will now get a chance to continue to try and catch the likes of 300+ Alfredo De Stefano and Raul Gonzalez for Real Madrid.