It was initially reported that Jose Mourinho’s first-choice striker target for Manchester United, assuming he takes over from Louis van Gaal this summer, was Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi.
This was according to The Sun, who claimed that Mourinho had told United to go out and sign the Serie A star.
However, Corriere dello Sport understand - courtesy of a Manchester United source who wishes to remain anonymous - it’s another striker from the Italian top flight that Mourinho wants to bring to Old Trafford this summer: none other than the league’s top scorer, Gonzalo Higuain.
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Higuain has scored 25 Serie A goals for Napoli this season - 12 more than the league’s second-top goalscorer, Carlos Bacca.
Icardi, meanwhile, has netted 14 fewer goals than his Argentine compatriot this season.
United prepared to pay club-record fee
The report claims that United are ready to pay €80 million (£62.1 million) for Higuain; only slightly more than the £59.7 million fee handed to Real Madrid for the club’s record signing Angel di Maria in the summer of 2014.
Higuain’s contract currently contains a €94.5 million (£73.4 million) release clause, but United are reluctant to pay quite so much for a player who turns 29 at the end of the year.
Higuain worked with Mourinho at Real Madrid
Mourinho knows Higuain well from their time working together at Real Madrid and clearly feels the South American would be a hit in the Premier League.
Higuain has scored goals on a consistent basis throughout his career; at Real Madrid he netted 121 in 264 games, while at Napoli he has bagged an even more impressive 80 goals in 140 appearances.
With such a formidable goalscoring record, Napoli will obviously do their utmost to keep the Argentina international, who finished as a runner-up in the 2014 World Cup and 2015 Copa America finals with La Albiceleste.
Higuain turned down new Napoli deal last summer
But the Italian outfit will be acutely aware that they risk missing out on a huge cash windfall if they decide against selling the striker this summer.
Higuain turned down the offer of a contract extension at Napoli last summer and now has just over two years to run on his current deal.
Explaining why they turned down Napoli’s contract offer, Nicolas Higuain - Gonzalo’s brother and agent - confirmed the club were only prepared to offer a one-year extension.
“We had a meeting with the president [Aurelio De Laurentiis] in Venice 10 days ago,” Nicolas was quoted as saying by the Guardian.
“We talked about everything. He offered a one-year contract extension, however, in my opinion – and in our opinion – we’ll continue with the original contract, expiring in 2018.
“I don’t think we’ll accept the president’s offer, because the contract isn’t that different from the one we signed before, so for us it’s not a real offer.”
Napoli’s decision to only offer Higuain a one-year deal could end up working in Manchester United’s favour this summer.
Man United fans: would Gonzalo Higuain be the perfect striker signing for your team? How would his arrival affect Marcus Rashford? Have your say by commenting below.
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