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Report: Gonzalo Higuaín agrees to leave Real Madrid for Napoli; where does this leave Arsenal?

Jul 22, 2013, 8:04 PM EDT

FBL-ESP-LIGA-REALMADRID-VALLADOLID

Whether this is Arsenal sleeping, deciding not to match, or otherwise being blindsided, the long-rumored purchase of Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain is not going to happen, if Spanish outlet AS has covered all its bases. Instead the 25-year-old Argentine will be moving to Napoli, replacing Edinson Cavani as the Neopolitans give manager Rafa Benítez a $48.8 million striker to build behind.

According to AS, Higuaín has agreed to personal terms that will pay him $7.9 million per season. Though the length of his deal wasn’t reported, if it’s a four-year contract, Napoli’s overall commitment to Higuaín will exceed $80 million. That’s nearly all of the fee PSG paid for Cavani and just over half of the Parisian’s total commitment to their new striker.

For their money, Napoli get a player that scored 106 times in his 188-match La Liga career, averaging exactly two goals every three games since his breakout, 22-goal season in 2008-09. After moving from River Plate in December 2006, Higuaín’s been part of three league champions and one Copa del Rey winner, though for the first time in his European career, the Argentine international will have to replicate his successes beyond the Santiago Bernabeu.

How close he can come to replicating Cavani’s success will be the bigger issue for Napoli fans. With the Uruguayan’s move to France, Napoli are losing a player who averaged 26 goals per season over the last three years. To put that in perspective, Higuaín’s best year in Madrid was 27 goals, but that was also the only time he eclipsed 22. Cavani’s worst season in Napoli produced 23 goals.

Higuaín won’t have to make up the whole the difference to make this move work. In fact, comparisons to Cavani’s value provide an impossible standard for Higuaín to live up to. Acquired from Palermo in 2010, Cavani had become a bargain for Napoli, more than paying off their initial $23 million investment. While he signed a new contract after his 2010-11 breakout with the partenopei, Cavani’s sale to PSG still gave Napoli a windfall on their investment. Higuaín, a finished product, can’t be compared to that kind of buy low, sell high proposition.

He will, however, inevitably be compared to whomever Arsenal end up starting as their number nine next month, be that Luis Suárez or incumbent Olivier Giroud. With the Gunners linked to Higuaín since before the end of the season, many fans had been expecting the Argentine to eventually arrive at the Emirates. Now, with Napoli swooping to claim a player who seemed a perfect fit, Arsenal fans are back where they started: Wondering if their hope for a big summer move will be in vain.

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