Milan (AFP) – Napoli fans will treat former favourite Gonzalo Higuain to a barrage of abuse when he returns to the San Paolo on Sunday with Serie A leaders Juventus.
Higuain was worshipped in the balmy southern port city as the striker banged home a historic 36 goals last season as Napoli made the cut for the Champions League.
But after a secret medical in Madrid, Juventus paid Napoli 90 million euros ($96 million) for his services and the Argentine reportedly left the city without even saying goodbye.
The club’s 60,000 fans are apparently preparing to blow a collective raspberry to greet Higuain as he comes onto the pitch.
Another former favourite son of Naples, Paris Saint Germain star Edinson Cavani, told Football Italia this week he found the hostility breathtaking at his return there during a 2014 friendly.
“I could not explain the reason for such a strong hostility. Of course, I wasn’t expecting flowers and applause but I remember climbing the stairs to go onto the pitch and I was excited. But it was like entering a cold shower,” Cavani said.
“I believe that Higuain will be upset to hear the whistles, but the situation is different,” added Cavani, whose departure from Napoli was far less acrimonious than Higuain’s.
“He’s at Juventus, and that’s a blow for Napoli, but he knows the difference and will be prepared.”
With nine games to go, Juventus top Serie A with 73 points while Roma have 65 and Napoli 63 in the final Champions Leagie qualifying place, before a six-point cushion to fourth placed Lazio.
Neither Higuain nor Juventus are on particularly good form right now and also go into the game with an eye on their up April 11 Champions League quarter-final clash with Barcelona.
Before the international break they squeezed past Sampdoria 1-0 in a game that saw their coach Massimiliano Allegri kicking kit bags around in frustration despite the three points.
The match is also notable for it being the 1001st official game for the 39-year-old Juventus stopper Gigi Buffon, who made his professional debut in 1995 as a 17-year-old in goal for Parma.
Ahead of the Sunday showdown, second placed Roma could reduce the gap at the top to five points with a home win over 17th placed Empoli, while Lazio face a trip to Sassuolo.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Sassuolo v Lazio (1700), Roma v Empoli (1945)
Torino v Udinese (1130), Chievo Crotone, Fiorentina v Bologna, Palermo v Cagliari, Genoa v Atalanta, Pescara v AC Milan (1400), Napoli v Juventus (1945)
Inter Milan v Sampdoria