The climax of the 2007/08 season holds fond memories for Gonzalo Higuain.
Aged 20, the Argentine scored the goal that mathematically sealed Real Madrid’s 31st La Liga title then, four days later, netted in a 4-1 El Clasico win against Barcelona just 57 seconds after coming off the bench.
Roughly 655 miles away, Olivier Giroud was plugging away in the third tier of French football with Istres, where the 21-year-old striker had found himself on loan after struggling to get a game for Ligue 2 side Grenoble.
Eleven years on, Higuain and Giroud are competing for the same spot at Chelsea, both battling their own perceived failures.
Higuain is winning the battle, having started Chelsea’s last seven Premier League outings. But his demons have come out to play this week after the 31-year-old called time on his international career.
Despite scoring 31 goals in 75 appearances- placing him 6th among Argentina’s all-time goalscorers- Higuain’s international career will be defined by the goals he didn’t score, rather than those he did.
Namely, the misses in the 2014 World Cup and the Copa America finals in 2015 and 2016, two of which were skewed wide when one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
Those three misses somewhat define a career that includes *pause for breath* three La Liga titles, two Serie A trophies, three Coppa Italia medals, two Spanish Super Cups, one Copa del Rey and an Italian Super Cup.
Individually, Higuain set the record for the most goals scored during a single Serie A campaign and has been named in the Serie A Team of the Year on three occasions.
Had he shot six yards to the left or right, that trophy cabinet would also include a World Cup and two Copa Americas.
It’s why Higuain will always be considered an elite club footballer who never quite carried his composure over to the international stage.
Then there’s his current sparring partner.
Giroud’s relatively modest domestic trophy haul can, in part, be put down to the fact that he wasn’t playing top division football until 2010.
His second season in Ligue 1 saw the Frenchman power Montpellier to an unlikely Ligue 1 title, helped by the creativity of Younes Belhanda and defensive rigidity of Hilton and Henri Bedimo.
But the 32-year-old, who also counts four FA Cups and three Community Shields amongst his trophies, often struggled to be the main man after joining Arsenal, and those difficulties have followed him to Chelsea.
However Giroud’s place in French folklore was forever cemented when he played an integral part in France’s 2018 World Cup win.
Despite not scoring, his presence up front allowed Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe flourish.
Giroud’s record- 35 goals in 89 internationals- is markedly worse than Higuain’s, but the esteem in which both players are held by their own countrymen couldn’t be more contrasting.
Ironically, had life worked out differently it could have been Brest-born Higuain leading the line for France in Russia.
At the age of 31 and 32 respectively, Higuain and Giroud will have one eye on the future, with retirement looming on the horizon.
When that day does eventually come, both will be able to look back on their careers with emphatic grins.
But you wouldn’t blame either for asking ‘what if?’ before going back to polishing their various medals.
Maybe they could share a trophy cabinet to help with those fleeting moments of regret?
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