Gonzalo Higuain has easily been the unexpected star of Real Madrid this season. Real Madrid's offseason was flooded with the major signings of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Xabi Alonso and Karem Benzema. With all of the signings it seemed like Higuain, despite his solid play last season, would be the odd man out and yet another young player that was pushed aside at Real Madrid for a star signing. Higuain (can we call him Gonzo? His nickname is El Pipita, but I like Gonzo better), like many players, could have shrunk at all of the star signings and taken his place on the bench until he was sent out on loan or traded once his contract expired. Instead, Gonzo has been nothing short of brilliant this season. He started the season on the bench but made the most of every opportunity. He now is a regular starter and leads the team in scoring with 11 goals - 4 more than C. Ronaldo and 6 more than Karem Benzema - the hot shot young forward Real bought this off season. I have nothing against Benzema, I think he's a solid young player. But the purchase of Benzema shows how flawed Real is. Both Benzema and Gonzo are 22 years old. They already had Gonzo, a superstar young forward who was coming into his prime, but Benzema was a "hot" name on the transfer market, so Real picked him up. A fine purchase since he does contribute, but practically unnecessary. Real doesn't play both Higuain and Benzema at the same time since they play C. Ronaldo at forward because they already have a host of midfielders. If you already had a productive young forward, why spend on another one? Because there is no such thing as logic and prudence at Real Madrid and because you never wait for a young player to develop when you can just buy one instead.
Anyways, I digress. It often happens when trying to make sense of Real Madrid. Back to Gonzo. On Sunday he was once again brilliant. He scored Real's first goal and assisted on the second. Check out the video below (there is a long intro, the first goal comes at the 2:00 mark).
Gonzo is clearly a legit forward. That first goal is just a beauty. He shows that he has an outstanding shot and fantastic accuracy. The second goal (he has the assist and makes the cross) shows off his skill and that he has great touch and can set up players and isn't just a finisher. Plus, he's a big guy and can push defenders around and out-muscle lots of defenders. He was showing flashes of brilliance at the end of last year. Luckily for Real Madrid, he was given another chance this season and was able to prove that he can dominate at the highest level.
So I wanted to post about Gonzo for a couple of reasons:
1. It's always fun to point out examples of how Real Madrid's business model of constantly buying players on the market and ignoring their own talent is terribly flawed;
2. I've been watching him all season and really believe that he is one of the best young strikers in the world and over the next few years will be in the "who is the best striker in the world right now" discussions; and
3. Those discussions will all begin after the World Cup this summer. Argentina has world of talent and loads of issues. They have a crack addict coach and a lack of mullets on the team. They need to fix their issues. If they can/do, with players like Gonzo, they can and should make it to the semifinals, if not finals. We all know that team is centered around Messi, as well is should be since he is the best player in the world and an incredible playmaker. But Messi can't do it alone and despite having other great players, it's a player like Gonzalo Higuain that is the x-factor that turns Argentina from a pretender to a contender. Mark it down and watch for him this summer.
Gonzalo Higuain might be the unexpected star for Real Madrid with the star-studded, ("galactico" if you will) lineup they have, but that should make him one of the expected stars this summer.
**Post update: Fittingly, just as I finally get around to posting about Higuain and giving him his due, I jinx him as it's reported that he injured his foot in the last game. However, the injury does appear to be minor and he should only be sidelined for 3 weeks. So he will be ready for the knock-out rounds of the Champions League and definitely ready for the World Cup so that he can prove me right that he's the next big thing.