Gonzalo Higuain or Diego Costa: Assessing Who Would Be a Better Option to Lead the Line at Man Utd
Mon, 22 Jul 2019 17:39

Gonzalo Higuain or Diego Costa: Assessing Who Would Be a Better Option to Lead the Line at Man Utd

Mon, 22 Jul 2019 17:39

Gonzalo Higuain or Diego Costa: Assessing Who Would Be a Better Option to Lead the Line at Man Utd
Manchester United have been offered the chance to sign both Diego Costa and Gonzalo Higuain on loan this summer, as reported by us nice people at 90min, as Romelu Lukakus protracted exit looms on the now-hopefully-not-too-distant horizon. 
Which begs the question: Who should they take? 
Now, the duos performances and perception in England may make this seem like an obvious decision - one is a recent Chelsea flop, the other was a teeth-grinding, hair-tearing success - but, trust me, its not. 
So, without further ado, lets head to the five categories we need to differentiate the pair. 

Firstly, lets go to the goalscoring stats, because theres a clear, clear winner. Whether you go off all-time, where Gonzalo Higuain leads by 294 to 174 (in just 149 more games), or 2018/19, where hes got 13 to Diegos five, its comprehensive.
And, before you start making appearance-related excuses for the Spaniard, who was admittedly hamstrung by injury, the Argentine scored five Premier League goals in his disastrous stint at Chelsea last season, more than double Costas output of two in La Liga, despite playing two more league games.
In fact, though he remains tarnished by a somewhat unfair reputation for bottling big chances in big games, Higuain has always been the more prolific forward, notching 20 goals or more across competitions in no less than eight seasons, compared to Costas four (though yes, two of those were in England).
Like it or not, maybe even believe it or not, Gonzalo is a better finisher, and thats just a fact. 

Neither player would attest to being the greatest passer of the ball, and if they did, few would take any notice of it - they are both forwards in the classical sense of the word. 
However, Im sure Gonzalo would consider the skill more integral to his game, and this stands up when we look at the stats. In 2018/19 league games, on average he completed 3.5 more passes than Costa per game, and had a pass accuracy of 80.45% compared to Costas 70.3%, with the Spaniard also down by 0.6 in the key passes per game column.
And, while they were level on assists across competitions, Higuain retains an advantage of 97 to 66 in the span of their whole careers. Two for two for Gonzalo. 

While Higuains pace and power with the ball were an underrated weapon in his armoury, particularly in that record-breaking spell with Napoli, this is Costas first big chance to get points in the board, and *spoiler alert* he will. 
Thats because, unconventional though his style may be (and thats at the best of times, at worst it can look ungainly), the man has always been a thunderous presence with the ball at his feet. While the volume of gallivanting that goes on may have decreased, with Higuain actually bettering him in terms of dribbles per-game in 2018/19, theres no question as to who a defender would rather have steaming towards them with ball in-tow. 2-1.

Hold-Up Play
While Gonzalo is undoubtedly better in the finer/cuter category of things, if youre talking pure hold-up ability, its Costa all day, especially when it comes to Premier League football, as was exhibited during Higuains tenure. 
Put simply, by hook or by crook, nine times out of ten, Diego Costa will retain the ball, and he will provide you with the proper platform from which to attack, and no age will put an end date on that bullish desire. Again, it might not always look as pretty as Gonzalos work, but it will always be more effective, and sometimes that ruggedness can have a beauty unto itself, case in point that cracker against Portugal at last summers World Cup. 
No one else in world football could score a goal like it, and I love it for that reason. Genuinely better than Nachos in that same game, no gas.

Potential may be a funny way of putting it when talking about two blokes in their 30s, but that is the way United must look at it, at least in terms of output in the upcoming season. And there are a variety of ways to look at this. 
If you were optimistic, you would go for the highest ceiling approach, in which you consider the best versions of each player, and in that category, its Higuains to lose - the man broke the seasonal goalscoring record in the most historically competitive league, FFS. 
However, football isnt always a place for optimism, and when you look at the relatively dramatic turn Higuains career took last season, combined with the 10-month jump he has on his Brazilian-born colleague, reality quickly sets in. Add in Costas record in England, and the 30-year-old just about edges it.

After five categories, it is Diego Costa who has come out on top, with a 3-2 victory. However, a multitude of caveats remain, starting with what kind of striker Manchester United want? If they want a playmaker-come-finisher, then Higuains their man. If they want a no-holds-barred, tried-and-tested-in-English-football bull of a player, then its Diego. 
However, theres also the question of fitness. No, Higuain might not have looked in the best shape at Stamford Bridge, but he was fitter than Costa was in 2018/19, and it has been the same hamstring/foot injuries that have plagued him throughout his career that hampered him last season.
Yes, he has now undergone surgery for that latter issue, but the prospect of a relapse remains, as does the prospect of a profitable English swansong, though, which makes him, by a hair, the better candidate. 
Youre welcome, Ole.