Turin (Italy) (AFP) – On the night Lionel Messi sensationally booted Argentina into next year’s World Cup finals in Russia, Gonzalo Higuain was watching thousands of kilometres away in Turin.
There was a touch of envy as the 29-year-old Juventus player took to Instagram to congratulate the national team: “Thanks a lot guys for taking Argentina where they should be, great effort, congratulations and enjoy.”
While in previous years his status was that of a business-class player jetting away for Argentina commitments to return to club duty at the last minute, now Higuain must adapt to another situation — the others go, he remains in Italy to work.
With three La Liga triumphs, one Scudetto in Serie A, and cup triumphs in Italy and Spain, Higuain is hardly short of trophies. But he has missed out on some of the biggest prizes of all.
In the past three and a half years, Higuain has lost in the final of a World Cup, the Champions League and two Copa Americas.
He was snubbed for the final round of 2018 World Cup qualifiers despite the uncertainty surrounding their qualification chances.
A situation that has weighed heavily on the 68-times capped Argentina international who has a tally of 31 goals scored over eight years for the Albiceleste.
“I want to leave my name at the highest level of this sport,” he insists. “To do that you need to have the humility to continue growing.
“(Juventus and Italy goalkeeper) Gigi Buffon always says as much — he’s almost 40 years old and he still believes he can improve. I feel like I can as well. I’m young. I hope I’ve still got lots of years ahead of me in football.”
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri urged Higuain to prove a point to Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli by rediscovering top form at club level.
And after a slow start to the campaign the Argentine striker showed signs of recovery this month against Atalanta with his third goal in eight Serie A games for the champions.
But last weekend his blunder from close range contributed to Juventus losing to Lazio in a first home defeat since August 2015.
The potentially damaging loss saw Napoli stretch their lead at the top of the table to five points on third-placed Juventus.
– ‘A bomber’ –
But the French-born player dubbed ‘Pipita’, like his father who was also a footballer, and who arrived in Turin on a 90-million-euro deal from Napoli a season ago, remains convinced Argentina may need him.