LONDON — Gonzalo Higuain is showing the same level of determination in his first weeks at Chelsea that he displayed during his most prolific scoring season at Napoli, according to Maurizio Sarri.
Chelsea agreed a lucrative deal to loan Higuain from Juventus until the end of the season with an option to extend or buy at Sarri’s recommendation in January, and the Argentine scored his first goals for his new club in last weekend’s 5-0 rout of Huddersfield Town at Stamford Bridge.
Sarri hopes Higuain will rediscover the kind of form that led him to score a Serie A record 36 goals in 35 appearances at Napoli in the 2015-16 season, and Chelsea’s head coach believes the circumstances around the striker’s arrival at Stamford Bridge — following an unhappy and unproductive loan spell at AC Milan — mirror the disappointments that sparked his surge in Naples.
“In the moment he is really very determined,” Sarri said of Higuain. “In my first season in Naples, he arrived later [due to the Copa America]. He missed a penalty in the last match in Serie A and he missed a penalty in the final [for Argentina].
“But he reacted really very well, he was very keen, he played an exceptional season. I think he is able to react very well to difficulties.
“At the moment he is really very keen, so I think that he can play a really very good season, or the last part of the season.”
Higuain forged a close bond with Sarri during their historic campaign together at Napoli and subsequently described the Italian as “a bit like a father” to him.
“I hope I am the football father!” Sarri joked. “I don’t know the mother of Gonzalo.”
Asked why he connects so well with Higuain, Chelsea’s head coach replied: “Mentally I think it was the same, but I think that Gonzalo is very suitable for my football, so the feeling is really fantastic. It’s a football feeling, I think.”
Sarri praised Higuain’s all-round performance against Huddersfield, highlighting in particular his immediate chemistry with Eden Hazard on the pitch, and the Italian is confident that Chelsea’s new striker will be able to make a big impact in English football as long as he remains in a positive frame of mind.
“As you have seen in the last match, Eden passed the ball very often to Gonzalo, they speak the same language with the ball, and so I think that Gonzalo will be very important for us also for this [reason],” Sarri added.
“He needs confidence first of all. He needs a very good relationship with the coach, with the teammates. Sometimes he needs a message from the coach in the press conference. We will see in the future.”