NAPLES: “Traitor”, “mercenary”, “Judas”, are some of the kinder words bitter Napoli fans bandied about this week when talking about the reception being prepared for the return of Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain with arch-rivals Juventus.
Higuain was worshipped in the balmy southern port city as the striker banged home a historic 36 goals last season as Napoli made the cut for the Champions League.
But after a secret medical in Madrid, Juventus paid Napoli €90 million for his services and the Argentine reportedly left the city without even saying goodbye.
“We’ve been waiting a year for him to come back. We really didn’t like the way he left and the way he behaved. He said he loved Napoli. But he left for the money. He’s a mercenary, a traitor,” says Bruno Alcidi, owner of Bar Nilo in Napoli’s old town.
Tha bar features an alter to the glory of Diego Maradona, another Argentine whose memory is cherished in the city after the incomparable superstar led the team to two titles.
“Higuain is a big footballer but for us he’s worthless. Look at Maradona. He gave his heart, he’s a saint. In Napoli’s history Higuain is a zero,” says Napoli fan Salvatore Romano on the city’s Via San Gregorio Armeno at a stall selling Napoli paraphernalia.
Higuain features prominently with his face on toilet rolls, dressed in his Juventus shirt with salacious insults written beneath
“Him going there to Juventus is the worst possible scenario. He could have gone anywhere but he went to the enemy – it’s like leaving Madrid for Barcelona – a complete betrayal,” Alcidi said.
Even Maradona is twisting the knife.
“He went behind the supporters’ backs. If he’d been open about it he’d have been hated less. Leaving an ordinary team is no big deal, but leaving Napoli isn’t like that,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport.
Higuain himself was blasé on the matter.
“A team shirt does have a value but at the end of the day football is a profession like any other and people are free to work wherever it makes them happy to be,” the 29-year-old striker told Sky TV.
Daniele “Decibel” Bellini the Napoli San Paulo stadium announcer used to shout Higuain’s first name ‘Gonzalo’ nine times every time he scored a goal.
“There’ll be booing and whistling from start to finish. He will be made to understand his mistake. It will be difficult for him,” Bellini said. “I’ve been asked to insult him over the mike but obviously I can’t.”
The club’s 60,000 fans are also apparently preparing to blow a collective raspberry to greet Higuain as he comes onto the pitch.