The worst-kept secret in Major League Soccer is finally out: Inter Miami announced Friday morning the signing of Argentine forward Gonzalo “Pipita” Higuain, who has played in three World Cups and parted ways with Juventus after four years with the Italian champions.
A league source confirmed that Higuain’s salary is in the $7 million range, making him the highest-paid MLS player. He will be reunited with former Juventus teammate Blaise Matuidi, who signed with Inter Miami last month, as the club becomes the only one in the league with a pair of World Cup finalists.
“First of all, I want to thank Inter Miami for the effort it has made to sign me,” Higuain said in a video released by the team. “I think it will be a beautiful experience in my life. It’s what I was looking for – a new experience, a new league and a beautiful city. I’m really happy to be here and that it’s official.”
Inter Miami chief operating officer Paul McDonough, who worked tirelessly with co-owners Jorge Mas and David Beckham, to get the contract done, said: “We are pleased to close a deal with Gonzalo and add an experienced and successful goal scorer who has excelled in the world’s best teams and leagues. Our ownership group has always said our goal is not only to bring elite players to Inter Miami, but also good people that share the ambition of making history in North American futbol, and we’re confident we have found that in Gonzalo.”
Higuain, 32, was one of the world’s top scorers between 2008 and 2018. He scored 107 goals over five years with Real Madrid, 71 goals in three seasons with Napoli and 48 in his first two seasons with Juventus, which paid Napoli a $99 million transfer fee to get him in 2016. At the time, it was the world’s third-most expensive transfer.
He spent 2019 on loan with Chelsea before returning to Juventus. He scored eight goals and had four assists in 32 games in 2019-20. Higuain also scored 31 goals in 75 games with the Argentine national team.
Higuain arrived in Miami Sept. 10, underwent a physical and has been complying with MLS COVID-19 requirements, including a quarantine of up to two weeks. As he awaits his visa and international transfer certificate, he is training on his own at the team’s practice facility. He will not travel with the team for Saturday’s game at Atlanta United (7 p.m., CBS4, Unimas), but could be available late next week.
“My goals are to grow the team, be able to compete and help the club grow with my experience that I’ve gained in Europe after so many years,” he said. “I think there’s a good base and good pieces to be able to do big things. I hope I can contribute and that the team can gain more confidence and earn positive results.”
Inter Miami’s record is 2-7-2 and the team has scored just nine goals in 11 matches, tied for second-lowest in MLS.
Coach Diego Alonso said Higuain is exactly the type of striker the team needs.
“Without a doubt his goal-scoring capacity will help us cover an area in which we have been looking for somebody to help us improve,” Alonso said. “He has incredible quality, he has played on the best teams in the world and on all of them he’s been a starter. He’s been a difference maker. He’s kept a lot of really talented players on the bench. That speaks to his pedigree and ambition.
“The expectation is he will be a number nine, a striker that helps us be more clinical in attack. He’ll bring a lot of experience because we have a lot of young players in that position, players that are very valuable but need time to continue to grow. I think that with Gonzalo’s arrival, those players will benefit.”
Higuain has kept a close eye on MLS for many years because his older brother, Federico, 35, played seven years for the Columbus Crew before moving to D.C. United this season.
“It’s always been a league that’s interested me, that I’ve looked at fondly and after talking with my brother and my family, I think it’s a good time to come here,” Higuain said.
Matuidi is eager to play alongside Higuain again. “I have known him since four years ago, so I know what kind of player he is. We will see a very good striker, an amazing player and a good person.”
Juventus released a lengthy goodbye message, saying Higuain and the club mutually agreed to terminate his contract, which had one year remaining. The message read, in part: “There were many battles together, many goals scored, with many often decisive. Now the paths of Gonzalo Higuain and Juventus go their separate ways: Pipita, after winning his third Scudetto, has officially taken off his Black and White shirt.
“Pipa, from the beginning, was able to enter the hearts of the Juventus fans thanks to that irrepressible desire to be decisive and find the back of the net.”
Exactly the words Inter Miami players, coaches and fans want to hear.