The Napoli fanbase was rocked on Tuesday when Nicolas Higuain, brother and agent of Gonzalo Higuain, took to Italian radio and announced to the world that the striker would not be renewing his contract with Napoli and all but declared that Gonzalo wants to leave Napoli as soon as possible. It was a shocking turn of events, as Higuain was largely expected to sign the extension that Napoli had offered him, so Nicolas' words put a sudden pall on what had been a promising summer for the partenopei.
Then Nicolas went back on the radio in a separate interview and put the club and its president, Aurelio de Laurentiis, on full blast, and oh boy did he ever not hold back. It was a fairly lengthy talk that gave us a lot to unpack, so let's go through everything point by point and make sure to respond to everything he had to say. The bold text below is Nicolas Higuain, the rest is what we have to say.
There was talk of a project worthy of the Champions League, a convincing plan to fight for the Scudetto.
Yes, and under Rafa Benitez that didn't work out so well, with late-season swoons that cost Napoli Champions League qualification in two straight seasons. Last year under Maurizio Sarri, though, Napoli were the Winter Champions, gave Juventus a good fight until late in the season, and qualified directly for the Champions League group stage. That's not a bad sign of progress, I'd say.
This year we finished the first half of the season in first place, but the club made zero effort because we didn’t see them make major signings to fight for the Scudetto.
Napoli lacked truly major impact signings, yes, but saying they made "zero effort" is a bit much, no? They did sign a pair of players in Allan and Elseid Hysaj who became major contributors, brought Pepe Reina back, and spent all summer and all of January trying to sign bigger players, only to come up short because Aurelio De Laurentiis doesn't overpay for players and didn't have Champions League money to splurge with like he did when he signed Higuain. Maybe if he'd opened up his wallet more in January they'd have had a better shot of winning, but Juventus turned nigh unstoppable once they decided they were done being terrible, and even a major spend in the winter -- which Napoli tried to do, only to miss out on their targets for various reasons -- may not have been enough.
The President [Aurelio De Laurentiis] has the right to ask for his [€94m] release clause, and we have the right not to agree with the project and not renew the contract, that’s only right.
De Laurentiis does absolutely have the right to demand Higuain's full release clause. The Higuains, to be fair, do have the right to not renew Gonzalo's contract. Not agreeing with the project seems a bit odd given their current trajectory, though.
Maybe the club is looking to bring in young prospects, but we believe they should make the effort to bring in players who can compete with Juventus, who have won the Scudetto for five years in a row.
Wait, what? Young prospects? Napoli? What? Elseid Hysaj is young, sure, but he can hardly be called a prospect at this point. Is this about Nathaniel Chalobah and Gabriel, two loanees brought in for depth? I mean... that's a harsh criticism of the team and project as a whole if so. I'll grant you Alberto Grassi, that move was just odd, but otherwise? Come on, man.
It seems to me that the direction the club is taking, while respectable, is not the right one to battle with Juve. You can’t do that and you can’t make the Champions League with youngsters.
Well, by your standards Napoli did make the Champions League with youngsters, so shove it. And it's not like anyone else in Serie A has been seriously battling with Juventus the last few years with the approach of buying big-name players.
If an offer comes in? It all depends on De Laurentiis, he’d have to accept it. We’re convinced not to renew the contract, then we’ll see if the President accepts an offer lower than the clause.
So in other words, you're publicly announcing your brother's intention to leave and trashing the team in order to kill Napoli's negotiating leverage. Again, shove it.
Gonzalo, in sporting terms, has very different ideas to the club at the moment. They still want to buy young players with potential, but we want to win!
Again with the weird youngster thing. Really having a hard time getting that. Also, name a team in Italy other than the financial juggernaut of Juventus who have been doing a better job. We'll wait.
In my opinion, De Laurentiis is a great manager of the club, they have excellent balance sheets.
Yep. And they're a good team in large part because of those excellent balance sheets, which gives them a huge leg up in stability over the vast majority of the league.
The problem is, as a football person, when I take a Coach like [Maurizio] Sarri who leads me to first place at the end of the first half of the season, and I see that a team like Juve - with a structure and better players - are catching up, you have to make the effort to get two good players to fight to the end. The club didn’t respond.
OK, again, Napoli did try to bring in players in the winter. You know this, Nicolas. You also know, and had to have known before you arrived in Naples, that De Laurentiis is sticky about not overpaying for players. The teams he was trying to get a number of very good players from didn't want to play ball and asked for the moon, as tends to happen in the winter window. ADL didn't bite, because of course he didn't bite, and things didn't work out. Shit happens.
I haven’t talked to Sarri, but I think he made requests to strengthen the team.
The same Sarri who has said over and over that he doesn't give a rip about the transfer market and just wants to be given a squad to tinker with? OK.
Maybe my thinking is at odds with Napoli, or maybe we should be content with finishing second and playing in the Champions League, but we want to win.
Considering how uncertain things were this time last summer after a dreadful season and with such a thin squad, I think that finishing second and Juventus having pull out that insane stretch of the season to catch you and put you away is pretty damn good. But maybe that's just me.
We had to endure De Laurentiis calling Gonzalo ‘chiattone’ [fat/chubby] in a delicate moment of the season, and certain things are hard to let go of.
Yeah ok that was stupid and bad I'll give you that.
There’s no meeting scheduled with the Napoli President, and what I’m saying today is stuff I’ve told him before so I’m not saying anything that De Laurentiis doesn’t know.
Guess I have to take you at your word on this one, though I have a slightly hard time believing that there's no meeting of any kind scheduled for after Gonzalo has had some time to rest after the Copa America, unless you've refused to schedule one.
Gonzalo doesn’t know if he’ll join up with the team in Dimaro [for pre-season training] or reach Naples later.
I'm calling bullshit on this one. Napoli know when they're going to be in their training camp retreat at Dimaro and when they're going to end that camp and go back to a more in-season training schedule going between Naples and Dimaro. They know when Higuain is due back from his post-Copa vacation. When and where he meets them is a known thing, so don't pretend otherwise Nicolas, unless this is your not-so-subtle way of saying that he has no intention of showing up and wants to be sold. Which it is, so once again, shove it.
This city is always in my heart, I admire and respect it, as does my brother. We love the fans, and this relationship of love isn’t the problem.
The problem is football, and we have to think of a project which will allow this team to make a good impression in the Champions League.
This squad is looking like it will be better than the one that almost made it out of a group of death three years ago, and it still has plenty of room and time to improve. Not seeing the problem.
Does this mean Higuain could join Paris Saint-Germain, since Zlatan Ibrahimovic has left?
Wow! He brought up the main rumor his brother has been connected with and the team that probably makes the most sense for him other than Napoli! What a shock!
I’ve never spoken with other clubs about Gonzalo as a matter of respect. I’ve been in Argentina for a month, but I’ve also been in Paris because I have other French clients and friends in football.
Now people see me everywhere, they even said I was with [Liverpool manager Jurgen] Klopp but there’s no truth in that.
In fairness, Nicolas looks a LOT like the guy who was with Jurgen at that one match.
I don’t need to talk with the Parisian club about my brother, if PSG want him they should call De Laurentiis.
And they will, because you set your brother up to leave. Once more, shove it. Then shove it some more.
The gist of it is this -- this interview, and the announcement beforehand, are 100% about Nicolas setting up his brother Gonzalo for a transfer this summer, and probably a transfer very soon. It's a combination of bridge burning and leverage wrecking, in order to grease the skids for an exit as much as possible. It's agent-speak at it's absolute worst, and while there are some genuine annoyances and frustrations to be had in there, it's all so twisted up in political bullshit that it's impossible to take at face value.
Losing Gonzalo Higuain sucks. Losing him like this is a thousand times worse. Agents are the worst.
And, and one last time: shove it, Nicolas.