United could do worse than Higuaín
Real Madrid’s 19 goal Argentinian Gonzalo Higuaín will almost certainly leave Los Merengues at the end of the current campaign but could Sir Alex Ferguson make a move for the former River Plate striker? Higuaín, who can boast a goal-a-game ratio this season, does not fit into President Florentino Pérez’ long-term plans.
It’s a remarkable situation for the 22-year-old forward, who has become the victim of Madrid’s bizarre internal politics this season. Despite the outstanding strike-rate, Higuaín is caught in an argument between Pérez and Real’s Sporting Director Jorge Valdano.
Argentinian Valdano wants his compatriot to remain in the Spanish capital, while Pérez prefers his own acquisition Karim Benzema for the central striker’s role in a 4-3-3 formation. It’s a view shared by a number of Madrid’s players according to the Spanish journalist Guillem Balague, who reports that El Presidente received phone calls from unnamed Galácticos criticising Higuaín’s recent selection.
With Real bent on bringing Franc Ribéry in from Bayern Munich and Cristiano Ronaldo taking the other wide berth, Higuaín is now surplus to requirements.
Moreover, Real’s Champions League defeat to Olympique Lyonnais last week signed coach Manuel Pellegrini’s death warrant, who will lose his job at the season’s culmination even if Los Merengues beat Barcelona to La Liga in May.
Forever the President’s puppet, Pellegrini is responsible only for day-to-day coaching and had practically no say in Real’s extravagant €260 million summer transfer splurge that brought Benzema, Kaká, Ronaldo and Xavi Alonso to Madrid.
Herein lies the crux of Real’s politics.While the Champions League is the heartbeat that keeps the club alive, failure in Europe’s premier competition cannot be tolerated by Real’s executives. More to the point Pérez is hardly likely to blame his ‘project’ for the humiliating fashion in which Madrid capitulated to Lyon.
French-born Higuaín, contracted to Madrid until 2012, is unlikely to remain a Madridista beyond the FIFA World Cup. Indeed, the nine-time European champions will probably hold on to the striker until after the tournament in the hope that it will boost the player’s value.
Selected only for Argentina’s final two qualifying matches, El Pipita was inexplicably ignored by coach Diego Maradona in favour of home-based veteran Martín Palermo. It remains to be seen whether Higuaín will lead Argentina’s attack at in South Africa this summer.
Meanwhile in Manchester Ferguson has key decisions to make about United’s forward line, with the side exposed to an over-reliance on Wayne Rooney’s goals. It’s an understandable, if risky, problem given the failure of Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov to match the England international’s strike rate this season.
Owen, sidelined for the main part of the campaign before succumbing to familiar hamstring problems, was a low-risk budget option whose impact has been minimal. Meanwhile Berbatov is now perennially cast as an understudy despite a number of sparkling displays in the past month.
With Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda not yet ready for regular first team duty, Ferguson may find that Higuaín’s pace and finishing is the smart choice to boost United’s attacking options next season.
Real is ready to sell. Is United prepared to buy?