While most fans often look at a potential transfer almost exclusively from their favorite clubs’ perspective, I always like to point out that we have to ponder things from the perspective of three parties- the player involved and the two teams negotiating. But when news broke of Chelsea’s interest in Gonzalo Higuain with Alvaro Morata potentially heading to Milan as part of the deal, we have the rare case of a deal involving five parties.
If you are surprised that the total is five rather than four, it’s because of in addition to Higuain, Morata, Milan and Chelsea there’s also another team involved since Juventus still own the rights to Gonzalo Higuain after this season. While this potential deal is still in the beginning stages and there’s no guarantee it will happen, to try to make sense of it all let’s look at all the parties’ priorities.
This deal is particularly fascinating because of the fact that all of the parties involved have history with each other so looking at in a vacuum (Higuain for Morata) is flawed, we need to look at in the context of other deals
Last summer the rossoneri thought they had ended the curse of the number 9 (Matri, Andre Silva, Torres, Luis Adriano were all flops after Ibrahimovic left) when they acquired Higuain, who on paper was someone who could guarantee them 15 goals a season- the main thing they were lacking compared to the teams that finished ahead of them in the standings last season.
But between a significant lack of service stemming from the fact Milan are the least talented team that Higuain has been on since 2006 (and that was even before Biglia and Bonaventura got hurt) and back issues, the Argentine striker is in the midst of his longest scoring draught since he arrived in Italy. Because of their issues with Financial Fair Play, Milan could only acquire Higuain on loan with option to buy last summer- they spent 18 million for a one year long with a 36 million option to buy next summer.
But between his lack of goals and a new ruling from UEFA on Milan’s financial fair play parameters moving forward, investing so much money on a player with no resale value at a time that the rossoneri have to balance their budget within 3 years seems quite risky. If Milan decide to move on from Higuain, they would still have to find an adequate replacement since they can’t count on Cutrone to be the main striker to take them back to the Champions League.
While to Milan there’s a feeling that Higuain could end up being a sunk cost in January, to Juventus the Argentine striker is a significant future liability. After acquiring Ronaldo, Cancelo and redeeming the rights to Douglas Costa, the Serie A champions could simply not afford to have Higuain’s gross wages and remaining amortized value on their books without getting into significant trouble with Financial Fair Play.
While they have received a boost from the recent new deal with Adidas, bringing back Higuain (who wanted to leave Turin anyway) doesn’t make sense financially on top of the fact there would be no room for him in an attack that already features Dybala, Ronaldo and a resurgent Mandzukic. Juventus have to make sure Higuain is on another team next season so they don’t carry his substantial cost on their books- they ideally need to find someone to pay the 36 million option Milan has since that is the remaining amortized value of Higuain’s deal.
But there could be another solution that Juventus benefitted from themselves in recent years. Chelsea were desperate to unload Juan Cuadrado a few years ago after he struggled in the Premier League, but they could not find anyone to pay his amortized value. Juventus offered to take him on loan for a season, before later acquiring him on a previously unheard of three year loan deal with obligation to buy.
The deal was structured this way to keep Cuadrado’s wages off Chelsea’s books and ensured the Blues didn’t take a loss on the Colombian winger’s amortized value- my guess is if the Higuain-Morata deal happens, the deal is structured in a similar fashion (again this is a guess and not inside information).
There’s no way around it, after a strong start Alvaro Morata has been a significant bust in London. Chelsea could certainly use an upgrade at the striker position, and while they are usually reticent to sign players in their 30s, Higuain had his best seasons playing for Maurizio Sarri at Napoli after the two developed a father-son like relationship- together they broke a 60 year old season scoring record in Serie A.
While Higuain has struggled at Milan and he’s had his worst moments on big stages with Argentina, it’s important to note that the only reason he’s still not currently the starting number 9 on Juventus, one of the elite teams in the world right now, is because Cristiano Ronaldo arrived- Higuain is far from a journyman.
While Chelsea have history with Juventus thanks to the Cuadrado deal, they also have some interesting ties to Milan which could make a Higuain-Morata swap more interesting. Milan have a 40 million option to buy Bakayoko, who after a very slow start, has arguably been the rossoneri’s best player of past two months.
Milan are also interested in another Chelsea player for the January window in Cesc Fabregas, so it’s certainly possible the clubs work out a deal involving a few of these players in a way that is advantageous financially for all involved (Morata perhaps going to Milan on a two year with a guarantee they redeem Bakayoko and get Fabregas at a better rate, something along those lines).
Last summer Higuain mentioned that he would like to play in the Premier League someday and after struggling at Milan and seeing his favorite coach Sarri at Chelsea maybe that desire has only increased. Higuain would find himself surrounded by a lot more talent at Stamford Bridge and he would play in a system he’s very accustomed to.
Morata had his best seasons in Italy, and while in the past he has been reticent to join a Serie A club other than Juventus out of allegiance to the bianconeri, he seems even more motivated to leave England especially now that he’s married to an Italian.
While there are many financial hurdles, where there’s a will there’s a way and all parties involved have good reasons to want to explore this potential deal further.