Higuain to AC Milan: Avoiding Silva and Kalinic's San Siro woes
Gonzalo Higuain's initial loan switch to AC Milan gives the Argentina international the chance to put his name alongside some of the great strikers to have graced San Siro.
However, while memories of Marco van Basten, George Weah, Andriy Shevchenko and others still endure, recent high-profile recruits have not entered the affections of the Rossoneri faithful so easily.
Nikola Kalinic and Andre Silva arrived as part of last year's transfer splurge under the ultimately brief ownership of Li Yonghong but their futures could now lie elsewhere as Higuain comes in to fill the number-nine role.
Prolific with Porto and Fiorentina respectively, Silva and Kalinic failed to catch fire in front of goal for Milan in 2017-18. The hope and expectation is that Higuain will not endure similar struggles.
A stunning breakout season at Porto persuaded Milan to make Silva one of their standout buys of 2017, the 22-year-old having fired 16 goals in the Primeira Liga and a further five in the Champions League. A hat-trick against Austria Vienna in his second Europa League appearance for Milan showed early promise but Silva had to wait until March this year to register a maiden Serie A goal.
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) September 14, 2017
An overall return of two in 24 top-flight appearances meant a goal every 461.5 minutes and a shot conversion rate of 6.9 per cent. Young enough to come again, Silva was goalless in three outings for Portugal at the World Cup and has been linked to Premier League newcomers Wolves.
A more seasoned performer than Silva, Kalinic was similarly unable to grasp his San Siro chance. In 2016-17 he scored 15 times in Serie A for Fiorentina – representing a goal every 167.33 minutes – following 12 the season before. This dropped to a return of six in 31 league outings for Milan, with shot conversion down to 15.79 per cent from 21.43 per cent the previous campaign, and the 30-year-old's laboured efforts preceded a truncated World Cup campaign with Croatia.
18 - Thanks to Nikola Kalinic's 15 goals, Fiorentina gained 18 points: joint-record in the last Serie A. Fox. pic.twitter.com/kzk1S8xp9N
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) July 4, 2017
Sent home by boss Zlatko Dalic after Croatia's opening 2-0 win over Nigeria amid struggles with a back injury, Kalinic declined his runners-up medal. He has since featured as a substitute during Milan's International Champions Cup matches – a situation Higuain's arrival in unlikely to improve.
Following those missteps, Milan can be forgiven for thinking they have hit upon a sure thing this time around. New surroundings tend not to be a problem for Higuain, who scored 17 times in Serie A after arriving at Napoli for the 2013-14 season. The next campaign yielded 18 before his astonishing and record-breaking haul of 36 from 35 outings in 2016-17, when one in four of his shots found the net to pave the way for a polarising €90million switch to Juventus.
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) July 31, 2018
Vitriol from those who once adored him in Naples was not enough to knock the burly striker off his stride and Higuain hit 24 league goals in his first season with the Bianconeri. A still-impressive 18 marked a drop-off last term and Cristiano Ronaldo represents an obvious upgrade in Turin. However, the 30-year-old’s shot conversion rate remained at a shade under 23 per cent.