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Higuain goes from hero to zero after big-money Juve deal

On 36 occasions last season, Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain boosted Napoli dreams of ending a 26-year title drought as he inspired with goalscoring feats in the Scudetto race with Juventus.

Higuain goes from hero to zero after big-money Juve deal
The striker moved to Juventus on Monday for €90 million.Photo: Carlo Hermann/AFP

On Tuesday, Higuain went from hero to zero after completing the world's third most expensive transfer to join Napoli's rivals in a move that has underlined his quest for succcess, yet prompted swift criticism.
   
Higuain was feted as the King of Napoli only two months ago when he broke Gunnar Nordahl's 66-year-old record of 35 goals in a single Serie A season as the Azzurri battled Juve for a title they last won in 1990.
   
But less than a month before Juve begin their bid for a record sixth consecutive title, the 28-year-old Argentine's name in Naples might as well be mud.
   
As Juve fans largely rejoiced when they smashed the Italian transfer record by paying €90 million to capture Higuain, their Napoli counterparts reacted by posting photos of their former idol's shirt in the toilet.
   
Higuain will undergo a medical on Wednesday ahead of signing a five-year deal that would leave him behind only Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo in the list of most expensive transfers.
   
But as Juventus, who have also signed exciting Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic from Roma and central defender Medhi Benatia from Bayern Munich, continue to reinforce Massimiliano Allegri's squad for a fresh assault on the Champions League, they may also have unleashed the biggest controversy of the summer.

 A mixed reaction

From top footballers to television celebrities and even Napoli's kit man, Higuain's move to the most potent, revered and perhaps hated club in Italy was met with mixed reaction.
   
For one-club man Francesco Totti, who is set to play his final season with Roma, it is a disaster that smacks more of “business than passion”.
   
“People come to the stadium to have fun and to see a player that's always with the same team. Maybe they hope for a player that won't betray them,” he told Gazzetta World.
   
“Look at what's happened now with Gonzalo Higuain leaving Napoli for Juventus. It's a disaster.
   
“But, it's completely normal now that when a foreigner comes to Italy he has the possibility of going to another team to make more money.”
   
Others, such as Salvatore Esposito – who plays gangster Genny Savastano in the hit Italian TV series 'Gomorra' – says Higuain has become “poorer” for trading in the unconditional love of Napoli's fans for a richer existence in chillier Turin.
   
“As a people, when we grow to love someone that love is unconditional,” said Esposito, sporting a Napoli top and cap in a video posted on La Gazzetta dello Sport's website.
   
“The way Gonzalo left was… pathetic, if you ask me. But in the end, it's business. I just hope the (club) president uses the money well to invest in a decent replacement.”
   
For Napoli's veteran kit man Tommy it was even written in the sky on Tuesday evening when he posted a picture of smoke pouring out of nearby volcano Mount Vesuvius.
   
“The mountain has seen this coming,” he wrote on Twitter.
   
But as Totti admits, few players in the modern game remain loyal to clubs for lengthy spells, and Higuain is no exception.
 
 After a breakthrough season with River Plate in Argentina, Higuain spent six and a half years at Real Madrid where he helped the Spanish giants to three La Liga titles and boosted his international status.
   
But continued disappointment at a lack of first-team starts put Higuain on the market, and he moved in 2013 in a deal worth €40 million.
   
Despite three positive seasons that notably saw him thrill fans throughout their last campaign as he chased Nordahl's landmark, Napoli's failed bid for the title left Higuain wanting more again.
   
He leaves Napoli with an Italian Cup winner's medal from 2014, for a team that are favourites to defend their league and Cup double, and launch a renewed bid for Champions League glory having come close in 2015 with a 3-1 final defeat to Barcelona.

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FOOTBALL

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.

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