Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain was told that it is time for him to show his full potential after scoring a brace in the 2-0 win at AC Milan on Saturday.
Despite an excellent scoring record over his career, the 29-year-old still has a tendency to perform in fits and starts and there have been suggestions this season that he has been squeezed out by his fellow Argentine Paulo Dybala.
Higuain managed four goals in Juve’s first 10 league games of the season, compared to Dybala’s 11.
“Higuain just needed to get into better shape,” said coach Massimiliano Allegri, whose side visit Sporting in the Champions League on Tuesday. “During the recent break, he trained really well and today he had an outstanding match.
“He mustn’t stop here, this should be a launchpad for him. He is one of the world’s best forwards and we’re lucky his plays for us.”
The 29-year-old has scored 101 goals in 153 Serie A matches for Napoli and Juventus and hit a Serie A record of 36 goals for Napoli in the 2015-16 season before moving to the Turin side.
Before that, he scored 107 league goals for Real Madrid and is one of only two players, alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic, to have scored more than 100 goals in two of Europe’s top five leagues.
“Gonzalo must believe in himself much more, because he has extraordinary potential,” added Allegri in a surprisingly frank assessment.
“He sometimes rests on his laurels, which is not good for him or for us. He must demand more from himself.”
Higuain said: “I don’t want to respond to my critics, I just want to help the team and these goals are for everyone who has always believed in me, not for the others.”
A win is Lisbon on Tuesday would almost certainly ensure Juve’s place in Champions League last 16.
Last season’s runners-up are second in Group D with six points, three behind leaders Barcelona, while Sporting are third with three.
“If we play like we did tonight, we’ll have a good chance of winning even taking into account that it’s a different type of match,” Allegri said.
“We want to make sure of qualifying on Tuesday so we can concentrate on the league.”