Milan (AFP) – Gonzalo Higuain completed a sensational move to Juventus after the Italian champions agreed to pay a 90 million euros ($98.8m) fee, the third highest in history, to wrest the Argentine striker from Napoli on Tuesday.
In what is the biggest ever transfer fee recorded between two Serie A clubs, Higuain’s move to Turin on a five-year deal was confirmed by Juventus two hours after being published by Serie A league bosses on their official website.
In a statement, the Turin giants said: “Juventus Football Club announces the definitive purchase of Gonzalo Gerardo Higuain for the sum of 90m euros, payable over two equal instalments in 2016/2017 and 2017/2018.
“Higuain will sign a five-year deal with the club.”
Napoli had slapped a 94.7m euros ($104m) buyout clause on Higuain’s contract after he hit a record 36 goals in the league last season when he broke Gunnar Nordahl’s 66-year record of 35 goals in a single season for AC Milan (1950).
After weeks of talks, Juventus negotiated nearly 5m euros ($5.49) off Napoli’s asking price to capture the 28-year-old striker whom they believe can make the difference between success and failure in the Champions League next season.
After leaving the offices of Serie A, Juventus CEO Beppe Marotta gave no details when asked by waiting media, but confirmed the move when he said: “We’ve deposited Higuain’s contract (with league officials). We’ve concluded everything.”
It is the third highest transfer fee in history after Gareth Bale’s move from Tottenham to Real Madrid for 100.8m euros in 2013 and Cristiano Ronaldo’s 2009 move from Manchester United to the Spanish giants for 94m euros in 2009.
– South American record –
Higuain also becomes the most expensive South American player in history, his transfer pipping the 86.2m euros Barcelona paid to Santos for Brazilian starlet Neymar in 2013.
Higuain, however, may expect significant abuse from home fans of Napoli when he visits with the Turin giants after becoming the darling of the club, prompting comparisons with the club’s legendary former striker Diego Maradona, as they fought a valiant battle for the Serie A title last season.
But for the club’s film-producing owner De Laurentiis, it was business as usual.
A short statement by Napoli said: “Napoli would like to confirm that Juventus has triggered the buyout clause for the acquisition of the player Gonzalo Higuain.”
Higuain, who will undergo a medical on Wednesday, will be expected to partner fellow Argentina striker Paulo Dybala, who in his maiden season with Juventus was their top scorer with 19 league goals, when the club return from their pre-season tour of Australia.
The transfer of Higuain, who cost Napoli 40m euros when he arrived from Real Madrid in 2013, could now spark a succession of other, high-profile transfers.
Italian media reports have claimed Juventus would sign Higuain if they convinced Manchester United to meet their asking price of 125m euros for star midfielder Paul Pogba.
Marotta suggested talks with United had stalled when he responded to questions on the France international by saying the talks had “stopped, but we’ll see.”
Napoli, who finished runners-up to Juventus to secure their place in next season’s Champions League, are now in the hunt for a top striker.
Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi is top of their shopping list, although reports from the Netherlands on Tuesday said Ajax were set to sell Polish international striker Arkadiusz Milik to the southern club for a fee thought to be in excess of 35m euros.
Higuain’s arrival in Turin, meanwhile, will add fresh impetus to their ambition of winning the Champions League.
Juventus reached the final in 2015 only to be outclassed in a 3-1 defeat in Berlin to Barcelona.