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Argentine star Gonzalo Higuaín could join brother on D.C. United in potential blockbuster

Juventus's Gonzalo Higuaín, right, has been one of the most prolific scorers in Europe since 2008. (Antonio Calanni/Associated Press)
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D.C. United has begun exploring the possibility of acquiring Argentine superstar Gonzalo Higuaín, a blockbuster move that would reunite him with his older brother, two people familiar with the situation said Wednesday.

Federico Higuaín, 35, joined United in March as a midfielder and assistant coach after eight seasons with the Columbus Crew. Gonzalo Higuaín, a 32-year-old striker who played in three World Cups, has one year left on his contract with Italian power Juventus.

United’s interest in the younger brother is in the very early stages, and the MLS club has not engaged in any formal discussions with the player or Juventus, said one person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of such high-profile pursuits.

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Furthermore, teams around the world are reluctant to consider chasing such players until leagues return in full from the novel coronavirus pandemic shutdown and revenue begins to flow again. MLS is negotiating with the players’ union about salary cuts and other belt-tightening measures amid the crisis.

Citing club policy, United officials would not comment about potential signings.

A move for Higuaín in the coming months would require United to pay a transfer fee unless Juventus allowed him to leave on a free transfer to lighten its payroll heading into the 2020-21 season.

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Higuaín would undoubtedly become United’s highest-paid player, with a salary of several million dollars. He reportedly earned $11 million this season.

Acquiring Higuaín would be United’s second major signing of a European-based superstar in recent years. Englishman Wayne Rooney was with United for the last half of the 2018 season and all of 2019 before returning home.

Since Rooney’s departure, United has expressed interest in, among others, Arsenal’s Mesut Özil and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric. This winter’s biggest signing was Peruvian World Cup midfielder Edison Flores.

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Higuaín was among the world’s most prolific scorers between 2008 and 2018, compiling 110 goals in all competitions during a five-year stretch with Real Madrid, 91 in three years with Napoli and 55 in his first two seasons with Juventus.

His $99 million transfer in 2016 to Juventus from Napoli was, at the time, the largest in Italian league history. It stands as the 12th largest in soccer history.

During loan spells with AC Milan and Chelsea in 2018-19, his scoring rate dropped off considerably, and this season at Juventus, where he is teammates with Cristiano Ronaldo, he has scored eight goals in 33 appearances.

Serie A teams have resumed training and are hoping to restart the season next month. Juventus leads Lazio by one point in pursuit of a ninth consecutive title.

With the Argentine national team, Higuaín posted 31 goals in 75 appearances before ending his international career last year.

The brothers have not been teammates since 2004-07 with their boyhood club, River Plate. A third brother, Nicola, is an agent who represents both players. Their father, Jorge, played for River Plate and rival Boca Juniors during a 16-year career.

Gonzalo Higuaín likes the idea of playing with his brother and being closer to home, where their mother is battling cancer, said one person familiar with United’s interest and the international marketplace.