Can AC Milan Afford to Lose Gonzalo Higuain?

"Gonzalo Higuain played for Napoli under Chelsea boss Maurizo Sarri" (CC BY 2.0) by NazionaleCalcio

The blockbuster signing of previous Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo essentially ended a two-year spell as the main man at Juventus for Gonzalo Higuain this summer.

They co-existed at the Bernabeu for four seasons until the Argentine striker moved on to escape the rather lengthy shadow cast by Ronaldo at Real. Higuain joined AC Milan on loan as a result, but is rumoured to be very close to moving again.

At previous club Napoli, he flourished first under Rafa Benitez and then Maurizio Sarri, who is reportedly in the process of imminently signing him for Chelsea.

No manager has got more out of Higuain than the current Blues boss, for whom he scored more Serie A goals than he played games in their one season working together.

That prolific 2015-16 campaign in Italy led to a reported £75,000,000 (around €90,000,000) transfer to Turin. Higuain formed a fine partnership with fellow Argentina international Paulo Dybala at the Old Lady, but when the opportunity to sign superstar Ronaldo came up Juve went all in.

Higuain was sent away to free up squad space, and Milan have an option to buy him, but despite being a proven Serie A marksman, he’s never looked like being as prolific at the San Siro.

We are talking about an out-and-out goalscorer here. Higuain is the only player in the 21st century to have netted 100 times in both the Spanish La Liga and the Italian top-flight.

 With the Rossoneri in the mix for a top-four finish and 2/1 with bet365 to get it, according to the latest Serie A betting markets, the key question is can they afford to let him go?

Much depends on how a transfer merry-go-round would work if Higuain is to leave Milan for Stamford Bridge. To cover his departure, the Rossoneri would likely recall Portugal international Andre Silva, who is on loan at Sevilla.

Any prospective loan signing or purchase of Higuain, meanwhile, would push Alvaro Morata further down the Chelsea pecking order. Sevilla is one touted potential destination for the Blues to move the rangy Spain striker on to.

In other words, it’s complicated. A bit like when you’re selling your house and it’s part of a chain of people relocating to new homes, there are factors outside of Higuain’s and Chelsea’s control despite an obvious desire from Sarri to be reunited.

Milan don’t own the house if we’re to extend that metaphor. They’re only renting it from the Old Lady while they decide whether or not to buy. If not, then they can always go back to their old place and recall Silva.

Rossoneri boss Gennaro Gattuso has clung to his job despite the club crashing out of the Europa League on goal difference. The once tough-tackling, no-nonsense midfield terrier has Milan fighting for a Champions League place, but there’s no margin for error up against the likes of Eternal City duo Lazio and Roma.

At the halfway stage in the Serie A season, seven points separate fourth from 12th in the table. It is as competitive as ever for European places, then. Can Milan afford to lose Higuain? Certainly not without replacing him, however much he hasn’t lived up to his billing.