Why Chelsea can’t swap Morata for Juventus’ Higuain

Juventus are rumoured to be keen on using Gonzalo Higuain as a means of engineering a return for Alvaro Morata.


REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

After a disappointing debut season at Stamford Bridge -in which he suffered multiple injuries and scored only 15 goals in all competitions- Alvaro Morata’s future has been the subject of intense speculation.

Former club Juventus -where he spent two seasons from 2014 to 2016- are interested in engineering a return to the Allianz Stadium for the Spaniard, but to make such a move happen, they’d first have to get Gonzalo Higuain off their books.

The 30-year-old, who scored 55 goals since a £78 million move from Napoli in 2016, earns £125k per week in Turin, but he’d need to be moved on to accommodate Morata’s £165k per week wages.

Hence, Standard Sport report that Juventus have enquired about Chelsea’s interest in a potential deal incorporating a swap, given the Blues’ immediate need to replace Morata should they sell him.

RealSport analyse whether Chelsea would benefit from any such deal.

The older model

Whilst Higuain is still a world-revered striker, Chelsea can’t simply ignore his advancing years.

The Blues are on the brink of a new era. The current core of their team are all pushing their 30s and it represents a chance for the new manager -potentially Maurizio Sarri, potentially not- to build a squad of his own. One with youth, one sustainable beyond the immediate future.

It’s imprudent, therefore, for Chelsea to begin building a team engineered towards getting the best out of a 30-year-old striker.

REUTERS/Alberto Lingria

In terms of Higuain’s age, furthermore, the Premier League is significantly more physical and faster-paced than the Italian Serie A, which could see Higuain struggle to adapt.

It’s a large financial outlay, in terms of his wages, for a striker that can’t necessarily guarantee success, especially at a time when owner Roman Abramovich has rescinded investment for the new stadium because of “unfavourable financial conditions.”

The Sarri-Higuain connection

Zinedine Zidane resigned from his position as Real Madrid manager yesterday, which saw Maurizio Sarri linked with the vacancy in the Spanish capital, threatening Chelsea’s bid to appoint him their new manager.

However, if the Blues were to announce Sarri, he does have past experience working with Higuain at Napoli.

REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

The Argentine played for Sarri in the 2015/16 season, the Italian’s first at Napoli, and scored a mammoth 36 goals in Serie A, equalling Gino Rossetti’s record from 1928/29.

There’s many ‘ifs, buts and maybes,’ but if Sarri was to succeed Antonio Conte as Blues boss, then maybe he could extract this form once more.

The relationship between Higuain and Sarri stops here, however.

His 36 goals in 2015/16 earned him a move to the Italian champions and Sarri opted against spending the £78 million on a direct replacement for Higuain, instead spreading the money around the team to strengthen depth, whilst adapting his style of play to compensate for the loss.

REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

This saw Dries Mertens play centrally, with fantastic results.

The Belgian scored 28 goals the following campaign -2016/17- and a further 18 last season. If Sarri decides to employ the same concept with Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, this completely negates the need for a striker of Higuain’s style of play.

If anything, Napoli improved without Higuain. Their football became far more coherent, attacking and attractive, resulting in an increasing points tally year-on-year, rising from 82 in Higuain’s final season to 91 last year.

A one-trick pony

This is because Higuain, whilst a man of many goals, is a one-trick pony. His style of play is rigid and unadaptable and, therefore, requires a team to cater to his ability as opposed to vice-versa, as Juventus do.

Higuain is no longer the most mobile of strikers and wouldn’t fit into Sarri’s attacking 4-3-3 system. It requires a striker with a more modern game, one more complete, comprising the abilities of a target man and a deeper-lying forward, as well as comfort in wide zones.

This is not Higuain.

Chelsea, moreover, have been linked with Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, whose agent declared he “needs a change.” The Pole is far more complete -and generally a better quality striker- than Higuain.

However, it does depend on what manager Chelsea employ. One continuing the more defensive legacy of Antonio Conte would be able to use Higuain to great effect, but a more attack-minded, expansive managerial philosophy has little use for the Argentine.

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Oli Stein

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Oli graduated from the University of Bristol with a degree in History and has worked with RealSport since September 2016.

Currently assistant football editor and Tottenham correspondent.

Follow him on Twitter: @steinoliver_

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