Federico Higuain gets asked about his brother, Gonzalo, rather frequently. However, Federico has a story that goes beyond his brother and family name.
The captain of Major League Soccer outfit Columbus Crew, Higuain has nevertheless learned how to handle the constant comparisons with his younger brother, whose profile has risen considerably since enjoying successful spells with River Plate and Real Madrid. Indeed, when the name of the international striker is brought up by FIFA.com, his sibling does not take offence.
“Honestly, it doesn’t bother me that people want to talk about Gonzalo all the time," said Federico, who won the MLS Newcomer of the Year award in 2012. "I don’t feel any bitterness. I have the pleasure of doing a job that I love and bearing a name that symbolises honesty and hard work."
Aside from a short and disappointing 14-match stint with Besiktas, the 28-year-old River Plate academy graduate has never really had the occasion to properly test himself in Europe. Confined to the Argentinian League for nine years, with a one-season break in Turkey and Mexico, at Club America, the forward had to wait until Columbus Crew came calling to embark on another adventure abroad.
“There were never really any opportunities," Higuain said. "I was never tempted by the offers that I did receive. A move abroad wasn’t the be-all and end-all. I’m happy with the career I’ve had and the choices I’ve made.
“I’m pretty happy here; I feel very comfortable. Right from the first day, I felt at home. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the standard of play here, and I love the club, the stadiums and the fans. The league has a huge potential and is constantly improving."
MLS Cup winners in 2008 but absent from the play-offs in 2012, the Ohio-based side are currently seventh in the Eastern Conference. They stand a good chance of rising higher, however, should their Argentinian forward continue to make telling contributions: in 13 matches played so far, he has scored four goals and set up three. Having ended last season with six goals and as many assists, the Buenos Aires native is simply continuing where he left off.
“I don’t always consider myself to be a forward," he explained. "Of course I try to operate as much as possible in the danger zone and to take part in attacks. But my priority is not to score goals; for me, that’s an occasional thing. If I manage to do it, great, but if not, as long as it doesn’t prevent me from helping my team, it’s not something that makes me angry."
While calculating statistics might not be his prime concern, he does admit to being a fighter: “I developed a desire to win growing up alongside Gonzalo and my other brothers. It explains the fighting spirit I have out on the pitch. I understood early on that this sport was first and foremost a competition whose goal was to be better than your opponent.
“When I was young, and I was playing with my friends, winning was the only thing that counted. Some show their will to win in different ways, but every footballer wants one thing: to win."
Life as a Higuain
Born into a sporting family which included a father, Jorge Higuain, who also played the game professionally, notably for San Lorenzo, River Plate and Boca Juniors in the 1980s, Federico admits that his career choice had a certain inevitability about it: “No-one forced me to become a footballer, it all happened naturally. It was a logical path to go down.”
Similarly, neither his father nor his brother could be described as guiding his career in any way. “We’re a pretty relaxed family, and everyone makes his own decisions. We discuss things together, of course, but no-one forces anyone to do anything,” pointed out the former Godoy Cruz player.
When Higuain states sincerely that he “tries to be a model professional every day”, it is difficult to contradict him: “Sometimes you can see that on the pitch, but not always. I’m not a great believer in attaching statistics to footballers.
“You know, if you don’t mess around, and if you give your all every week, football can truly bring you happiness. Personally, I’ve been happy at every club I’ve ever played for.”