21 July 2013

Suarez v. Higuaín: National team stats give the nod to Higuaín

As part of my ongoing campaign to convince anyone who will listen that we should focus on signing Higuaín and not Suarez, I thought we should compare their statistics at the national level. After all, Uruguay and Argentina face many of the same opponents, and their players fight for something other than salary as they represent their countries. With a bit more at stake, we should then see the circumstances bring out the best in each player. Along the way, we get to see a bit more of a direct, apples-to-apples comparison between players who feature for clubs in two different leagues.

It should come as no surprise to regular visitors to this blog that Higuaín comes out ahead of Suarez. Despite having to fight for time on the pitch with Messi and Agüero, Higuaín has found time since his 2009 debut to notch 20 goals in 33 caps or 0.606 goals per game, an admirable rate of return of nearly a goal per game. By contrast, Luis Suarez, who exists in a sweet-spot of sorts between a 34-year old Diego Forlán and the up-and-coming Edinson Cavani, has managed 33 goals in 69 caps or 0.478 goals per game. That's a rate of return that we would be foolish to dismiss or overlook.

It's a pretty sharp contrast. Whereas Suarez has been scoring a goal approximately every other game for his country, Higuaín has gone a step further, scoring almost two goals in three games for his (any D & D fans out there can elaborate on why this is a big deal). When you add in Suarez's wasteful conversion rate at Liverpool and consider that Liverpool somehow generate 19 shots per game to Arsenal's 16 (courtesy of whoscored.com), my preference for Higuaín seems to move from casual opinion to somewhat-informed if debatable fact. Suarez's conversion rate of 12.3% pales in comparison to Higuaín's 21% (club stats at this point as I can't seem to find country stats).

Sure, it's infuriating to hear that Real Madrid's valuation of Higuaín has spiked from the mid- to high-20m range into the high 30m range, but that's the silly season. If we had nailed down the transfer before the club left for Asia, we might have been laughing all the way to the bank. Instead, we find ourselves scrabbling with Napoli and Chelsea for a signature we should have had dead to rights weeks ago. We have ourselves to blame in a sense, unless, as I've suggested, this whole Suarez bid is a smokescreen to obscure our genuine pursuit of Higuaín. Please, let me, for this one time in my life, come out as a genius.

Higuaín is the better choice on many levels, whether it's scoring, chemistry, character...I'll keep banging away at this until the dust has settled and the the contracts are signed.

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