Arsenal have been given the all clear by Napoli to sign Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain – for £64.7m.
Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis laughed off the interest coming from the Premier League as he stressed that any club interested in the former Real Madrid star will need to activate his release clause before they can enter negotiations over a move.
Arsenal were close to signing Higuain when he left Real in 2013, only for the Serie A side to steam in with a considerably larger offer and blow the north London side out of the water in the battle to land his signature.
The 27-year-old has since led the line for Napoli, but is believed to be considering his options after the club missed out on Champions League qualification this season. With former manager Rafael Benitez moving on to pastures new at Real Madrid, Higuain’s exit could spark a new era in Naples, but De Laurentiis insists that is not going to happen anytime soon.
Arsenal's 10 best Premier League signings
Arsenal's 10 best Premier League signings
1/10 Petr Cech
The goalkeeper position has been cause for concern at Arsenal since Jens Lehmann left the club in 2008, but Cech could be the man to finally bring some stability to the role. While Arsenal’s famed attack has never been a problem, their defence and goalkeeper have remained a problem area, but at least with Cech in the side they finally have a safe pair of hands at the back.
2/10 Thierry Henry
The club legend caused a bit of a stir when Arsene Wenger splashed out £11m on a player who had failed to cut it at Juventus. But something at Arsenal clicked for Henry, and he went on to become the club’s all-time record goalscorer, netting 226 goals in 369 games in all competitions and having his statue erected outside of the Emirates to immortalise his legacy at the club.
3/10 Patrick Vieira
The man who led Arsenal to the ‘Invincibles’ season arrived in 1996 for the low fee of £3.5m, and he went on to become a force to be reckoned with in the Premier League. One of the best midfielders to have graced the top flight, Vieira’s exit left Arsenal a hole that to this day they are yet to fill.
4/10 Cesc Fabregas
Stolen from under Barcelona’s nose, a 16-year-old Fabregas arrived in Arsenal’s academy with high hopes of being a first-team regular in a short space of time. He did exactly that, going on to become a key cog in the team that reached the 2006 Champions League final before taking on the armband after Henry’s exit. However, a lack of silverware and the allure of returning to Barcelona saw him depart for close to £30m.
5/10 Dennis Bergkamp
The Netherlands forward recently saw the 20th anniversary of his move to Arsenal come and go, and it gave Arsenal fans the perfect chance to relive some of his greatest moments at Highbury. Having made his name at Ajax and struggled with Inter Milan, Bergkamp brought ‘Total Football’ to north London and left a legacy that sees him remain one of the greatest players to have graced the Premier League.
6/10 Nicolas Anelka
The striker may have only been at Arsenal for two full seasons and left before he’d even turned 20, but his impact – both on the field and increasing his value – is matched by very few. Arsene Wenger spent just £500,000 on the Frenchman when he was 17 years old to bring him in from Paris Saint-Germain, and he was instrumental in the double-winning season of 1997/98 when Arsenal clawed back a 12-point gap in less than three months to beat Manchester United to the title, plus he scored in the FA Cup final victory against Newcastle. He left at the end of the following season, with Real Madrid splashing over £22m to sign him in the summer.
7/10 Sol Campbell
Much like the move for Cech, Campbell caused controversy when he came from a rival club in Tottenham Hotspur. The problem for Spurs fans’ is that the centre-back ran down his contract to leave White Hart Lane on a free transfer, and to this day remains a hate figure for the club due to joining their north London rivals. However, he gave Arsenal five years of loyal service to the Gunners which included a headed goal in the 2006 Champions League final, and he returned to the club in 2010 to help them amid a defensive crisis before retiring in 2011 after a short stint with Newcastle.
8/10 Robert Pires
Pires cost Arsenal just £6m in 2000 and grew into a firm fan favourite in the ‘Invincibles’ side. His style of play completely suited the Arsenal way, but it was a separate Arsenal policy that brought about his exit as he was only offered a one-year contract when he wanted double that. Villarreal came calling, and he left following the 2006 Champions League near-miss, yet remains a frequent visitor to both the Emirates and Arsenal’s London Colney training base.
9/10 Marc Overmars
Another Dutch great that played for both Ajax and Arsenal, Overmars arrived in London in June 1997 for £7m and lit up the Premier League immediately. His winning goal against Manchester United in 1998 swung the tide in the Gunners’ favour as they surged to the title, and when he moved to Barcelona in 2000, the club made the best part of £20m profit on his re-sale.
10/10 Gilberto Silva
Often the man forgotten in the incredible ‘Invincibles’ side, Gilberto’s full effect was seen after he left the club in 2008. Much of his impact went unnoticed, but once he left it was clear to see that Arsenal could not cope with out his defensive nous and ability to protect the back four. Francis Coquelin has shown signs that he could be the first player to fill that role to a similar level since Gilberto left, but he still has a long way to go.
He did admit that he would “like to sell” Higuain, but only because the money that would be generated from any sale would be enough to launch a spending spree on up to eight players.
"Sell Higuain for €90m (£64.7m)? I’d like to sell him," De Laurentiis said in a conversation with a fan that was recorded on a mobile phone.
"That way I can buy eight players for the club!"
While the quote appears to suggest that Napoli are willing to sell Higuain, the truth is actually quite the opposite. Higuain has been the club’s top goalscorer for the past two seasons, bettering his 2013/14 tally of 17 goals by one last time out. Napoli do not wish to sell him this summer, but if a club such as Arsenal decided to activate his €94m release clause there is little the Italian club can do other than ask him not to leave.
Bookmakers’ slashed odds on Higuain to join Manchester United over the weekend due to Robin van Persie’s departure after the Netherlands striker agreed to join Turkish side Fenerbahce, but Arsenal have continuously been linked with the Argentinian since missing out on him two years ago. With 53 goals in 102 games for Napoli, Higuain’s talent remains unquestioned, but having splashed out £29m on Higuain the club are determined to see a significant return on that sum should he depart in the near future.Reuse content