Maurizio Sarri said Gonzalo Higuain was one of the best strikers he had ever worked with after the Argentina international reunited with his former manager having completed a loan move to Chelsea on Wednesday.
Higuain, 31, has signed for the Premier League club from Italian champions Juventus until the end of the season with the option to make the move permanent for €36 million (Dh150.6m). Chelsea also have the option to extend the loan for the 2019/20 season for €18m.
Higuain spent the first half of the season on loan at AC Milan, scoring eight goals in 22 games, after making way for Cristiano Ronaldo’s €100m arrival at Juve.
Prior to the Portuguese forward, Higuain was Juve’s record signing when he arrived from Napoli for €90m in 2016 following one season working with Sarri, during which he equalled an 87-year-old Serie A record by scoring 36 goals in a season.
Sarri hopes he will rediscover that form, and by doing so, alleviate Chelsea’s recent struggles for goals.
“He has had some difficulties recently, but we’re hoping we can raise him back to his best form,” Sarri told reporters on Wednesday.
“He’s still scored eight goals in a team that isn’t at the same level as Juventus.
“He’s a very strong striker. Especially in my first season in Naples. He scored 36 goals in 35 matches in Serie A. For sure, he is one of the best strikers in my career.”
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 23, 2019
Higuain’s arrival has come too late for him to face Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup semi-final second leg on Thursday.
He did not sign before Wednesday’s midday deadline and cannot therefore play against Spurs at Stamford Bridge in a match Chelsea trail 1-0 from the first leg.
However, the former Real Madrid forward has vowed to get up to speed as quickly as possible to help his new team.
“When the opportunity to join Chelsea presented itself I had to take it. It’s a team I’ve always liked that has a lot of history, a wonderful stadium and they play in the Premier League, a league I’ve always wanted to play in,” Higuain said in a statement on the Chelsea website.
“I now hope I can give back that trust Chelsea have shown me out on the pitch. I can’t wait to start and I hope to adapt as soon as possible.”
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 24, 2019
Sarri was keen to boost his goalscoring options after dropping misfiring Spain forward Alvaro Morata and deploying playmaker Eden Hazard as a ‘false nine’ in recent games.
Asked if the arrival of Higuain was a sign that the club are behind him, Sarri said: “I hope so. I think the club agree with me when I told them my opinion about the team.
“The January market is very difficult, especially for a striker. It’s very difficult in January to find one of the most important strikers in the world.”
Chelsea are in the fourth and final Uefa Champions League qualifying spot in the Premier League standings, three points ahead of Arsenal who beat them 2-0 on Saturday.