In a similar case to David Trezeguet, who could have opted to represent Argentina instead of France, Gonzalo Higuain may well have been turning out for Les Bleus instead of La Albiceleste at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Born in the French city of Brest, where his father Jorge Nicolas Higuain played professionally, the Real Madrid goal-getter decided to wait for the call from Argentina, despite an invitation from France supremo Raymond Domenech to turn out in a November 2006 friendly.
Indeed, he spent just ten months of his childhood on French soil and did not return until 1998, when he accompanied his father on a scouting job for then Argentina boss Daniel Passarella. In a curious quirk of fate, it was Passarella who eight years later gave Higuain junior regular first-team football and the chance to make his name at River Plate.
Quick, clever and able to finish with either foot, El Pipita was signed by Spanish giants Real Madrid within a year of breaking into Los Millonarios’ first-team squad. And despite having to compete with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raul, Ruud van Nistelrooij, Arjen Robben, Rafael van der Vaart, Javier Saviola and Karim Benzema since arriving at the Bernabeu, Higuain has made a starting berth his own.
A look at his career stats underlines the coolness in front of goal El Pipita will be hoping to bring to the Argentina cause in South Africa. In his 35 appearances for River he netted 13 times, including a decisive brace in his first superclásico against Boca Juniors in 2006. At Madrid, Higuain has improved his tally year on year, and this season has already surpassed the 22 Liga strikes he fired in 2008/09.
On the international stage he is something of a novice, having failed to appear for either France or Argentina at youth level. Called up to train with the Albiceleste’s U-18 side, he was unable to attend as he did not hold an Argentinian passport. With this document safely obtained in 2007, and after turning down those French overtures, the striker was linked strongly with a place in the Argentina squad for that year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup and Copa America - which overlapped – only to miss out on both campaigns.
Come 2009, after turning out in friendly action for his country’s U-23 team, he was finally called up by Diego Maradona for the senior national squad. And he has not disappointed, hitting a well-taken goal against Peru in a crucial qualifier and the winner against Germany in a high-profile friendly in March this year.