Gonzalo Higuain said Friday that the only person at Chelsea who wanted to sign him was the Blues’ new coach Maurizio Sarri, after arriving at AC Milan in a three-player swap deal. Higuain had been heavily linked to the Premier League club before making the switch from Italian champions Juventus to their Serie A rivals, due to his relationship with Sarri and goal scoring record while the pair were together at Napoli. The 30-year-old, who scored a record 36 Serie A goals under Sarri in 2015-16, said that the Premier League club didn’t do enough to sign him. “The esteem in which I hold Sarri isn’t new. But the only person who wanted me there (at Chelsea) was him. Everyone wanted me here,” Higuain said to reporters during his official unveiling as a Milan player.
Higuain signed for Milan from Italian champions Juventus on Thursday on a one-year loan deal worth a reported 18 million euros ($21 million) that gives the Serie A club the option to buy the striker next summer for a further 36 million euros. Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci went the other way after just one underwhelming season at Milan, swapped for promising Mattia Caldara. Argentina international Higuain’s arrival has revived enthusiasm around Milan after a troubled period marked by on-pitch embarrassment and financial woes. Last season they scored just 56 league goals as they finished sixth despite spending over 200 million euros ($233 million) on new players. The 30-year-old, who scored 40 league goals in two seasons at Juve, is gunning for what would be a first taste of European success following the club’s readmission to the Europa League.
The closest striker Higuain has come to tasting European success in his career was the 4-1 thrashing at the hands of former club Real Madrid in the 2017 Champions League final, and the Argentina international wants Milan to push for the Europa League. Milan meanwhile have been in decline since last winning the league in 2011. Their last appearance in the Champions League was in 2013-14, when they reached the last 16, while last season Arsenal swatted them 5-1 at the same stage of the Europa League. “I think it (the Europa League) is one of our objectives. Winning it would be extraordinary,” Higuain said. “A team like Milan needs to have the idea of winning it in its head.”
UEFA booted Milan out of next season’s competition for violating the financial regulations, only for the ban to be overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on July 20 on July 20 following hedge fund Elliott Management’s takeover earlier in the month. The American firm took control after the Chinese consortium led by Li Yonghong that bought Milan in April last year, long rumoured to be struggling financially, failed to repay 32 million euros lent by Elliott. New sporting director Leonardo said last week that the club wouldn’t be making any major moves in the summer transfer market.
However Bonucci’s desire to return to Turin and Cristiano Ronaldo’s shock arrival at Juve enabled Milan to bag one of Europe’s most lethal strikers at a price affordable to a club in the early days of re-establishing financial stability. “All top teams aims for top players,” Brazilian Leonardo said. “Having an attacker like Higuain at Milan takes us to another level.”