MADRID, March 1 – When Real Madrid paid Lyon 30 million euros for French international forward Karim Benzema in the summer it looked like Gonzalo Higuain would be the one to make way.
But the Argentine striker has responded with a glut of goals to leave Benzema and captain Raul on the substitutes bench instead.
Higuain, 22, scored a fine brace, only denied a hat-trick by the crossbar, and created another for Kaka in Real’s 5-1 rout of Tenerife on Saturday to make it 10 goals in his last seven league matches and is the club’s top goalscorer with 16 goals just one behind Valencia’s David Villa and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in the goalscoring charts.
"I am really happy because I am higher up the goalscoring charts and it would be great to be the Pichichi (leading scorer)," declared Higuain.
"I feel really good. I have returned to scoring goals and I am happy. This is becoming my best season since I arrived at Madrid, but I still have a lot to learn and a lot of things to improve on."
Higuain’s haul of 16 goals has come in just 18 league games and puts him ahead of world record signing Cristiano Ronaldo who has 13 goals in 15 league games.
Real are the league’s top-scorers with 64 goals in 24 league outings to lie two points behind leaders Barcelona and Higuain hopes for a league and Champions League double to make amends for last season when they ended up empty-handed.
"Winning the double would be a great dream for the club and we control our own destiny in both competitions but both will be difficult to win," said Higuain.
In the Champions League Real trail Lyon 1-0 after the first leg of their last 16 tie and Higuain, nicknamed ‘El Pipita’ or ‘the little pipe’, confessed that rivals Barcelona had the best team on the planet and would take some stopping with his compatriot Messi in such fine fettle.
"People like who they like, but for me Messi is the best in the world. He has won the Ballon d’Or and the FIFA World Player awards and at the moment is the world’s best," said the former River Plate man.
"Although Madrid are the best team in history, currently Barcelona is the best team in the world. It is hard for me to say that."
Higuain is just one goal behind Messi in the scoring charts and will hope his goals have caught the attention of Argentina coach Diego Maradona ahead of this summer’s World Cup.
Higuain is competing with Messi, Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez and Atletico Madrid’s Sergio "Kun" Aguero for a striking berth in the Argentine national team.
But for now Real Madrid are the main focus and Higuain hopes to win a lucrative contract extension by plundering more goals.
"I have spoken about it (the contract extension) with the team, but it is not something that worries me because I am convinced that one earns a contract extension with Real Madrid by performing well and I will earn it on the pitch," he explained.
"I want to be here many years. I am happy here and I have adapted to the city an the club."