Gonzalo Higuain, who will make his Inter Miami home debut Saturday against New York City FC, met with the local media via Zoom for the first time Thursday since joining the club two weeks ago.
The Argentine forward explained why he left Juventus at age 32 to join Major League Soccer, where he became the highest-paid player in the league at $7 million a year.
He reviewed his first game with Inter Miami — a 3-0 road loss against Philadelphia Union. He expressed displeasure at the five Union players who taunted him after he missed a penalty kick. And he provided an early assessment of his new team.
Higuain, who scored over 230 goals with Real Madrid, Napoli, Chelsea and Juventus said: “MLS is a league I have followed for a long time because of my brother [Federico, who plays for D.C. United]. It is a league that always intrigued me, drew my attention and curiosity.
“I saw that many strikers came here and enjoyed the experience, scored a lot of goals, so that also drew my interest. It is a new experience, a new project with a great club in a beautiful city like Miami. All the tools are here to be able to do great things. After a lot of thought, this was the best option for me, without a doubt.”
Higuain said he felt good during his 90-minute Inter Miami debut last Sunday, despite the unsatisfactory result. Considering he had not played a full game in nearly two months, and that it was his first match in a new league, he was happy with how much contact he had with the ball. He lamented his missed scoring opportunities, especially the PK.
He was upset, however, with the behavior of five Union players who mocked him after the missed PK.
“I felt it was a lack of respect toward me, and I reacted,” he said. “I am not proud of my reaction, but I am an emotional person and I couldn’t accept or tolerate it. I believe in fair play. Five players jumped at me. That is a provocation and is objectionable.”
Higuain is impressed with Inter Miami so far.
“When you come from playing so many years at a high level, to come here and find similar things as far as training and how things are done is encouraging and gives you confidence. We have a lot to improve, but we have a very good base. We have nine games left. Today, we’re not in a good spot, but we’re four points from [a playoff spot] and things can turn around quickly with work and belief.”
He didn’t divulge anything personal, but here are 10 things every fan should know about Higuain:
1. He was born in France on Dec. 10, 1987, while his father, Jorge, was playing for French club Stade Brestois 29. The family moved back to Argentina the next year when Jorge signed with River Plate.
2. Higuain is one of only three foreign-born players to represent Argentina in a World Cup.
3. Higuain has done something not even Maradona or Lionel Messi has done — scored a hat trick for Argentina in a World Cup. He did it in a 4-1 win over South Korea in the 2010 World Cup.
4. His nickname is “Pipita,” an homage to his father, whose nickname was “El Pipa,” (The Pipe) said to be a lovable moniker earned because of his nose.
5. His mother, Nancy Zacarias, is an accomplished artist.
6. His maternal grandfather, Santos Zacarias, was a national boxing hero first as a fighter and then as a trainer.
7. One older brother, Federico, spent seven years with the Columbus Crew and signed with D.C. United this season. His oldest brother, Nicolas, is his agent.
8. He loves tennis and Rafael Nadal once received an Higuain No. 9 Napoli jersey as a gift.
9. He has broken many scoring records, but this one is particularly impressive: In 2015-16, Higuain finished as Italy’s Serie A top scorer with 36 goals in 35 games, beating a record that stood for 66 years set by the legendary Milan striker Gunnar Nordahl.
10. In 2016, he became the most expensive South American soccer player of all time when Juventus paid Napoli a $99 million transfer fee for the right to sign him.