a hell of a number two / MLS / Inter Miami / SOFOOT.com

A disturbing and meaningful coincidence. The evening when his conscript, Karim Benzema, received his first Ballon d’Or, at 34, Gonzalo Higuaín, a time his competitor at Real Madrid, said his farewells in a certain indifference and at the same age. As if there was only room for the top of the class.

It’s a race that could have become iconic. After cheating on Manuel Neuer, Gonzalo Higuaín launches into a frantic sprint, his mouth wide open, furious, to celebrate what he believes to be Argentina’s opener in the World Cup final. We play the 30e minute at the Maracanã, and it was the first goal by an Argentinian in the World Cup final since that of Maradona, 28 years earlier: the consecration could not be greater. But Gonzalo Higuaín, at his last gesture, did not see the flag raised. His race will nevertheless become iconic, but especially on the internet, a factory to manufacture virtual mockery in all its forms (memes, video montages, murderous tweets…). She will add ridicule to her missed final, where her rude miss a little earlier in the match, alone against Neuer, is still worth pointing out today. Then will come these other unrealized opportunities in the Copa América final, in 2015, then in 2016. Argentina, exasperated by the repeated failures in the final of a selection that had not known how to win since 1993 (Copa América), had found his scapegoat.

“Five seconds behind a computer can destroy a person”

The trajectory of Gonzalo Higuaín, goleador Real Madrid, Naples or Juventus, author of 335 goals in 18 years of professionalism, obviously cannot be reduced to a few badly negotiated matches, however important they may be. On October 3, during his end-of-career announcement press conference, El Pipita however, spontaneously returned to the treatment he was subjected to on the internet, to his reputation tarnished by mockery. “I personally suffered from abuse on social networkshe assured. It hurt me, but I had a family behind me that kept me going. Many cannot. Five seconds behind a computer can destroy a person, because anonymous evildoers will always exist. » Where when Twitter, Instagram or YouTube invite themselves into the thoughts of an international when bowing out. That a player, as good as he is, is seen as a scapegoat is obviously not a recent phenomenon. Just think of the shattered fate of Brazilian goalkeeper Moacyr Barbosa, another damned Maracanã, when Brazil let their World Cup slip away at home against Uruguay, or the whistles from English stadiums for David Beckham , expelled during England’s elimination from the 1998 World Cup. ), and polyphonic (supporters, journalists, influencers, bots…). In an interview given to ESPN on September 21, Higuaín even assured that the online mockery had led to him being forced to breathe in the selection. “Me, I was no longer having fun, not because of the missed goals, but because of the repercussions of what we are talking about, the bullying, the mockery, the fierce criticism, which have become normal. »

“Football is a more toxic world every day. I want to get away from it »

The career of the vice-world champion and double vice-champion of South America could however be told as a success story. Revealed at River Plate as a teenager, he joined Real Madrid at 19, quickly became a starter, and once launched, seasons around 20 goals would be his norm. From the 1987 generation, like Messi, he even resisted the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo and also achieved his best Spanish season from a statistical point of view (29 goals) when the Portuguese landed at Real Madrid. Like all attackers meringues, he will certainly end up living in the shadow of CR9, but in the duel between him and Karim Benzema, he sometimes takes over, especially under José Mourinho. His laborious pace, not really modern center-forward, however, is a bit of a stain within the White House, but after a rather prolific seven-year term (121 goals), he will remind Italy how much he is a trigger for Exception, first in Naples – his most prosperous years -, then at Juventus. The double top scorer in Serie A (2014, 2016), who drags a reputation, not really virtual, as a good living, however sees his performance drop heavily from 2019. No doubt a little tired. “Football is a more toxic world every dayhe said recently. I want to get away from it, I think it’s a world I don’t belong to as much as I originally thought. »

Messi: ‘People have been unfair to him’

What exactly was the Argentinian referring to? Perhaps the lack of recognition of the environment. The relative discretion in which he retired – the timing certainly did not help, like his exile to Inter Miami, in an intermediate level championship – could in any case lead to think that there is ultimately room only for the numbers one: Benzema today, Cristiano and Messi before him. Mbappé, in a hurry to be considered the best even if it means falling into apparently childish attitudes, has thus perhaps better assimilated than others the signals sent to him by his time. Still, time should give Gonzalo Higuaín the place he deserves, that of one of the best Argentine strikers of his time, with El-Kun Aguero or Carlos Tevez. One of the best in the world too. The numbers don’t lie, though in Argentina the wildly popular montages comparing his actions to that of Gabriel Batistuta with theAlbiceleste could pass him off as a district striker. But El Pipita missed because he was there, that he was one of the few elected to defend the jersey of his selection. Leo Messi summed up the whole Higuaín paradox, speaking to TyC Sports: « It was terrible, because he had a spectacular career… He played in the best teams, always performed well, won titles, which is difficult, but he was a little branded by the Copa America and the World Cup. People have been unfair to him. » Higuaín also had the misfortune to hang up his cleats one evening of the Ballon d’Or, to which he was named in 2016. The eyes of the world were on the Châtelet theatre, where Karim Benzema was crowned best player in the world. The Frenchman was no longer the ex-replacement for Gonzalo Higuaín, who ended his career, in tears, on an elimination against New York City, at the Drive Pink Stadium.

By Thomas Goubin

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