Higuain: 'I can only hope to achieve a small fraction of what Maradona did'

He came close to joining Arsenal before plumping for Napoli in the summer - and now Gonzalo Higuain has another Premier League side to disappointment in Europa League hopefuls Swansea. Clemente Lisi chats exclusively to the Argentine about life in Naples, Maradona and his nation's chances of World Cup glory... 

We are part of The Trust Project What is it?
Although it's only been a few months, how would you sum up your time with Napoli so far?
It has been incredible. I am in great physical shape and the team is doing very well. We're working hard and the fans have been great to me. 
Do you think Real Madrid wish you were still with them?
I don't know, you'd have to ask them. I know that I am happy to be with Napoli and we are working very hard to bring a championship to this team and its great fans.
Why did you choose them?
I came to Napoli because the team is in position to win a title. They brought in Rafa Benitez and he wanted me to be part of his plans for the season. I came to this team to win, and I think we are in great position to do so. The fans are dreaming of a title, and while that's a lot of pressure, it is also something that energises me as a player. 
What are the team's strengths?
It’s a strong group. They have been slowly building over the past few years and it's showed. They won a Coppa Italia and are regularly in the Champions League. If you look at the results from the past few seasons, I think they speak for themselves. We are not a team of great individual players but a collective. We are a united group, and that's important. 

Gonzalo Higuain, Napoli

Higuain has adjusted well to life in Serie A

You came to the team in the same summer Edinson Cavani left. Do you feel like you have big shoes to fill?
Cavani is an extraordinary player. He did some great things at Napoli, and scored a lot of goals. He will forever be remembered as one of the greatest players Napoli has ever had. 

Of course the greatest player Napoli ever had, and maybe any team ever had, is Diego Maradona. That makes you his heir, right?
That's not for me to say! Maradona is a legend, the greatest player the world has ever seen. He is still remembered at Napoli, and I can only hope to achieve a small fraction of what he did. If I do, it will have been an accomplishment. 
Why do so many Argentines come to play for Napoli?
I know that Napoli reminds me a lot of Argentina and that's a good thing. It's easier to get accustomed to the culture and climate; it makes you more comfortable and that's always nice, especially when you join a new team. 

Gonzalo Higuain, Diego Maradona

Hig gets a hug from idol Diego

Did you speak to any former Napoli players from Argentina before signing for the club?
I did. I spoke at length with Ezequiel Lavezzi, and he told me what to expect. I had also watched Napoli from when I was a child and Maradona played there. I always watched Napoli games, even after Maradona left, and I never thought I would some day play for them. 

You have said that you owe Maradona a great deal. What did you mean?
When he was Argentina’s manager at the last World Cup, he called me up and gave me a starting role. He always gave me great advice and made me a better player. He has meant a lot to Napoli, but he has also done a lot for me and my career. 
What other managers have you liked?
I usually like all my managers. Jose Mourinho, when he was at Real Madrid, was always good to me. He kept me motivated and always supported me. 
Napoli have lost to both Roma and Juventus so far this season. Can Napoli compete with clubs that are aspiring to win the title?
Absolutely, we can. Yes, we did lose those games but the season is long and there are a lot of games to be played. The 3-0 loss against Juventus was harsh. We played well and their first goal was offside. I was tripped in the penalty box and didn't get the call. Had those things happened, the outcome would have been very different. 

Rafa Benitez, Gonzalo Higuain

Benitez consoles Higuain after Napoli's cruel Champions League exit

Does the team have a problem winning the big games? 
No, I don’t think so. We have won some big games this season, it’s just a matter of focusing. Whether it’s in Serie A or anywhere else, I think we have the players to win the important games. We are no different than Roma, Juventus or any other team trying to win a championship. 

Who do you think is the best player in Serie A?
There are so many great players. I like Francesco Totti, though - he is one of the best. Carlos Tevez is also very good. I don't think Serie A has anything to be ashamed of in terms of its calibre of players compared to Spain or Germany. 
Let’s talk about Argentina. The goal is to win the World Cup. Is that realistic?
Yes, absolutely. We will be playing close to home, in Brazil, so I think that may help us. We have a very good team, and that means there is a very good chance we can win the World Cup. There are many strong teams like Spain, Brazil, Germany and Italy, but I think we can compete with all of them on an equal level.