LONDON — Chelsea are confident that Juventus will sell Gonzalo Higuain for less than the agreed price of €36 million if they decide to make the striker’s loan deal permanent at the end of the season, sources have told ESPN FC.
Higuain, 31, has impressed since arriving at Stamford Bridge on loan in January, scoring twice in a 5-0 victory over Huddersfield Town and looking dangerous even as Chelsea suffered an historic 6-0 defeat against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
Chelsea paid around €9m as a loan fee to Juventus in the initial agreement, which includes options to extend Higuain’s stay for a further season at the cost of €18m or buy him outright for €36m next summer.
Juventus structured the deal in this way to remove the annual €18m cost of owning Higuain from their accounts, and the Italian giants cannot afford to keep the Argentine after making Cristiano Ronaldo the highest-paid player in Serie A when they signed him from Real Madrid for €100m in July.
Ronaldo is reported to earn €31m per season, three times more than anyone else in Italy’s top flight, and is on a four-year contract. Juventus also last week confirmed that they have signed Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey to a deal that will reportedly earn him €7.5m per season.
Sources have told ESPN FC that Juventus want the full €36m to sell Higuain, but Chelsea believe the Serie A champions’ financial commitments mean they will accept a lower price if it is decided that Higuain has a future at Stamford Bridge beyond this season.
That decision is closely tied to the future of head coach Maurizio Sarri, whose position has come under scrutiny with a run of three defeats in four Premier League matches that has seen Chelsea slip to sixth in the table and culminate in the City loss, their heaviest for 28 years.
Chelsea only set aside their reservations about Higuain’s age and huge wages — he earns a reported €9.5m per season — on Sarri’s recommendation in January, and signing him permanently is unlikely to be viewed as an appealing prospect if the Italian is sacked.
Sources have told ESPN FC that Chelsea are not considering Sarri’s position, but Champions League qualification has always been the club’s primary objective and further setbacks in the Premier League or elimination from the Europa League could put his job at risk.