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Napoli move gives Higuain a fresh start

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GONZALO-HIGUAINMADRID, Spain, July 27- Another transfer saga came to an end on Saturday as Gonzalo Higuain finally completed his departure from Real Madrid to Napoli.

The deal, that reportedly could rise to as much as 40 million euros ($49.1 million, £31.9 million) depending on how successful the Argentine is in Italy, represents great value for Madrid who paid only 12 million euros when they signed a promising but very raw talent back in 2006.

Higuain has since developed into one of Europe’s premier strikers and has an impressive record with his 121 goals during his time in Madrid.

However, as is common at Real, the 25-year-old was never truly loved at the Santiago Bernabeu by either the club’s demanding fans or its controlling president Florentino Perez.

The problem that Higuain posed for Perez was that he wasn’t one his ‘Galactico’ signings which he has splurged hundreds of millions of euros on since returning to take charge of the club in 2009.

Perez did however sign Higuain’s competitor for the main striking role in the side, Karim Benzema, and has therefore tended to champion the Frenchman at Higuain’s expense despite the latter producing a better goals per game ratio since the two became teammates four years ago.

The one area in which there has been a significant disparity in Higuain and Benzema’s performance though is in the Champions League and it is his record in European competition that has held him back from being taken to the hearts of the Real faithful.

Higuain has scored just eight goals in 48 Champions League appearances, compared to Benzema’s 19 in 34 Champions League encounters for Real and 31 in 54 appearances overall in the competition.

The Argentine was blamed after missing two clear-cut chances in Real’s shock last-16 elimination to Lyon back in 2010 and he again felt the ire of the Bernabeu crowd when he was booed off in last season’s Champions League semi-final second-leg against Borussia Dortmund after failing to snaffle a few early opportunities.

That reaction and having to share his playing time with Benzema convinced Higuain that he needed to leave the Spanish capital and declared publicly to the media following Madrid’s final league game of the season that he would be seeking a move.

However, Higuain has still had to endure a frustrating summer.

Moves to Juventus and then Arsenal seemed on the cards and would have been more preferable destinations for the player than a move to Napoli, but neither the Italian champions nor the English side came close to matching Madrid’s evaluation of the player.

Instead it was Napoli who having just pocketed 64 million euros from the sale of Edison Cavani to Paris Saint-Germain, stumped up the cash as Rafael Benitez’s Spanish speaking revolution of the Italian club intensifies after already securing Raul Albiol and Jose Maria Callejon from Real Madrid and with Pepe Reina’s loan deal from Liverpool expected to be confirmed within the next few days.

It may not have been his first choice but on the face of it the move gives Higuain what he wanted. When he spoke to the media at the end of the season he claimed he was going somewhere “he would be loved.”

This week merely his arrival, firstly in Rome and then later on in Naples, has produced an outwave of excitement and love from the club’s large band of exuberant supporters.

And on the field Higuain has what he desired too as Cavani’s departure means he will undoubtedly be Benitez’s first-choice centre-forward.

That will give him plenty of playing time to prove it should be he and not Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero or Ezequiel Lavezzi who partners Lionel Messi up front in Argentina’s bid for World Cup glory on enemy soil in Brazil next summer.

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