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Adam DigbyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2017

Time was ticking by at Juventus Stadium. The hosts—who had taken the lead through Leonardo Bonucci only to see Jose Callejon equalise for Napoli—were struggling to create an opening in this October meeting between these two Serie A giants.

Picking the ball up after a throw-in, Gonzalo Higuain turned towards the opposition box and spotted Sami Khedira’s run into the box. He lofted the ball towards the German midfielder, and while those around him stood still, he moved forward in anticipation that the defence ahead of him might make a mistake.

They did, inexplicably allowing Khedira to lay the ball back to his advancing team-mate. For a brief moment, time stood still as the 21 other players on the field and the 41,000 fans in attendance knew what was coming.

Unmarked 16 yards from goal and with Pepe Reina rooted to the spot, it was inevitable. Higuain beat the ‘keeper with ease as he thumped the ball into the back of the net—2-1 Juventus. But as the jubilant home crowd chanted his name, he spread his arms wide in a gesture of apology to his former club.

Indeed, just three months earlier, the Bianconeri had triggered a release clause in his contract, their official website revealing they paid a €90 million fee to bring him to Turin. That sum was never going to be consolation enough for Napoli losing the deadly front man, especially after he struck 36 goals in just 35 Serie A appearances last term.

“He was very happy, naturally this was a special game for him,” Allegri told Sky Italia (h/t Football Italia) shortly after the striker secured victory. “He made a choice to come here and absolutely should not feel like a traitor. Instead, he made a courageous decision.”

Higuain refused to celebrate against Napoli.

Higuain refused to celebrate against Napoli.GIUSEPPE CACACE/Getty Images

Now, the Coppa Italia semi-finals have pitted the two clubs against each other once again, and that offers an opportunity to see how Higuain has fared since making the move. Already 29 years old, he was undoubtedly an expensive acquisition, but there is little doubt that his new side had grabbed a top player.

“I was pretty sure that Juventus had bought the best No. 9 in the world,” Romeo Agresti of JTV—Juve’s in-house channel—told Bleacher Report recently. “In my personal opinion, he’s better than Luis Suarez and Robert Lewandowski.”

Having bagged 19 league goals this term, Higuain is ahead of that duo and trails only Edinson Cavani of Paris Saint-Germain (26), Olympique Lyonnais’ Alexandre Lacazette (22) and Barcelona star Lionel Messi (20).

Adam Digby via WhoScored/Squawka

Compiled using statistics from WhoScored.com and Squawka.com, the table above compares Higuain’s impact with that trio as well, as AS Roma’s Edin Dzeko who has matched the Juve striker’s goal tally thus far.

He stands up well in such a comparison; Lacazzette is the only player on that list to have taken fewer shots and also boast a marginally better level of accuracy. Clearly playing against a higher standard of competition in Italy, it is worth noting that when Juve met Lyon in the UEFA Champions League—earning a 1-1 draw and a 1-0 win—Higuain scored and the Frenchman did not.

That helped the Bianconeri reach the latter stages while the Ligue 1 side dropped into the UEFA Europa League, and it is in continental competition where the Serie A side truly need Higuain to deliver.

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