Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain was handed a four-game suspension on Tuesday following his reaction to being sent off at Udinese on Sunday.
The Partenopei’s loss, coupled with Juventus’s win over Empoli on Saturday, allowed the latter to move six points clear at the top of the Serie A table with seven games remaining.
Higuain, who has scored 30 league goals in 31 games so far this season, received two yellow cards before his furious reaction as he left the pitch earned him an additional three-match ban, as reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport.
In turn, he will now miss games against Verona, Inter, Bologna and Roma, and it is difficult to see how his teammates will keep themselves in contention in his absence.
Napoli supporters were left particularly furious with the treatment of their influential striker, as it comes just weeks after another controversial altercation involving Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci during the Derby della Mole with Torino on March 20.
The Italian international escaped further punishment despite seemingly pushing his forehead into that of referee Nicola Rizzoli, although the official released a statement, as noted by Football Italia, on Tuesday insisting that footage was misleading and that there was no headbutt.
Furthermore, Gianpaolo Tosel of the Giudice Sportivo, explained that while the Higuain incident was included in the referee’s match report on Sunday, the Bonucci altercation was not, thus leading to the respective decisions.
The differential treatment between Juve and Napoli players has once again sparked a war of words over an uneasy topic that has rumbled on for years with regards to the Bianconeri.
Regardless of history though, what matters, and hurts, the most for Napoli supporters right now is that their talismanic striker will now miss four important games which could essentially see their title bid continue to fall apart.
Without his goals and his general threat leading the line, coach Maurizio Sarri will have to conjure up an alternative plan, albeit from the stands this weekend after he also picked up a suspension.
Given the level of opposition with two difficult away trips to Inter and Roma, is seems impossible that they will avoid further slip ups, which in turn paves the way for Juventus to seal a fifth consecutive Scudetto.
Additionally, after such a sensational season, Higuain’s year looks as though it will end in disappointing fashion. While he also has himself to blame for his reaction on Sunday, it is difficult to deny that it also seems harsh given the behaviour of other players all around Europe.
The argument should be that all players should show a level of respect to officials across the board and set an example for those in lower tier football as well as youngsters.
However, that hasn’t been the case for many years, and unfortunately for Higuain, he will be made to pay a heavy price while Napoli fans are left to criticise the officials and inconsistency from the governing bodies who should also be questioned as to how the same relatively aggressive gestures haven’t been assessed in a similar fashion.