He’s come in for plenty of stick during his time in Fort Lauderdale but, right now, Gonzalo Higuain is carrying Inter Miami to the MLS Cup Playoffs.
The veteran Argentine striker scored the late winner in a vital 1-0 victory away at Toronto FC on Friday night, leaving the Herons on the cusp of sealing their post-season spot.
It was Higuain’s 14th goal in 26 MLS appearances this season and his sixth in his last six games alone. A far cry from the player that arrived to so much fanfare in September 2020 after playing for the likes of Real Madrid, Juventus, Chelsea, and Napoli, yet became a figure of ridicule due to his struggles.
“This group is an amazing group and are now beginning to believe what we believed in them from day one. That’s great to see. I think it helps when you’ve got a center forward that’s carrying the team towards the playoffs,” Inter Miami head coach Phil Neville said after Friday’s victory.
“I’ve said from day one: We are fortunate, we’re lucky. I’m lucky to manage a world-class striker,” Neville added. “If you think about the adversity that he’s had to overcome in his Inter Miami career, I think it’s a testament to his character. The fact that he said from day one that he wanted to finish with Inter Miami as a winner. He’s leading a young, inexperienced squad to a place where they are challenging and where we want to be, so we’re really happy.”
Higuain had to wait until the 86th minute for his winner on Friday, but had absolute faith that he’d get another chance thanks to the ‘fight’ in this Inter Miami team.
“I’m very emotional because this team doesn’t give up, it fights to the end, and I’m very, very proud to be part of this team,” said Higuain. “It seems like we like to suffer and score late, but I knew myself I was going to have another chance to score. I knew that if I stayed focused and concentrated, I knew I was going to have another opportunity, and the chance arrived and I was able to finish it.
“It was very important for us to get this win and this goal because it’s a big one as we push to the Playoffs.”
Neville continued in his praise of Higuain, even claiming the former Argentina international has become a figure of worship within the Inter Miami locker room.
“He’s probably where he wanted to be when he first came [to] MLS,” the coach said. “He wanted to be the man, the man that everyone looked up to, the man everyone worshiped – and that comes two ways. You’ve got to have a team around you, and you’ve also got to play the performances yourself. And I think what we’ve done, we’ve provided him with a team and a platform, particularly with [Alejandro] Pozuelo coming in, and he’s given the team back more.”
Neville continued: “We’ve got a world-class player in Gonzalo and he’s delivering everything and more for the team that worships him, the team that thinks he’s God, the team that thinks he’s the king…he’s got everybody on a string. It’s brilliant to see the happiness in which he’s playing his football, the happiness in when he comes into work every single day, and he’s got the whole dressing room playing to his tune, and that is through respect, that is through encouragement, and that is through his performances. That’s what you get from winners.”
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