Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain is in such good form that fans are beginning to believe this could finally be the year they can reclaim the Italian Serie A title.
Napoli won the scudetto in 1987 and 1990, thanks to the magic of Diego Maradona and their current Argentine hero has received hefty praise of late.
“As a central striker, he is the best in the world,” Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri said after Higuain’s impressive brace in the 3-2 defeat at Bologna on Sunday.
The surprise loss hurt but Napoli are still third in the standings having been buoyed by Higuain’s two deadly strikes, which sank leaders Inter Milan 2-1 a week earlier.
They sit two points behind Inter with Higuain firmly in command in the Serie A scoring charts with 14 goals from 15 games, as well as two more in three Europa League appearances.
Higuain will probably not be able to celebrate his 28th birthday with a goal in Thursday’s Europa League as Sarri, whose team have already secured first place in the group, is set to rest him against Legia Warsaw.
Sarri’s decision could be bad news for the Roma defenders who will face a well-rested Higuain in Sunday’s big Serie A encounter.
A 50,000-strong crowd is expected on Sunday at Naples’ San Paolo stadium, where many have been comparing Higuain to Maradona despite their styles of play being very different.
“I lived a magical night thanks to all the fans and teammates.” Higuain tweeted after the win over Inter.
“United we are stronger. Let’s keep it up. Go Napoli!”
His arrival in Naples in 2013 after seven seasons and three Liga titles at Real Madrid was hailed as a turning point for Napoli, who have gradually made it back among the Italian elite by lifting two Italian Cups and an Italian Supercup in the past four years.
There was a touch of drama for the striker after his debut game in late August 2013. He hurt his jaw as he slipped from a boat on the island of Capri.
He went on to score 17 and 18 league goals in his first two seasons, becoming a fan favourite in the southern city where he said he felt at home from the very first day.
This season the striker is among Europe’s very best domestic goal-getters, level with Jamie Vardy of Leicester City and Barcelona’s Neymar on 14.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is currently Europe’s top scorer in the major leagues by netting 17 times in 15 Bundesliga games for Borussia Dortmund, but Higuain is far from finished as Napoli eye their ultimate prize. GNA