Having taken Sarri’s words on board, Higuaín changed his diet and lost four kilograms before the season in which he scored an incredible 36 Serie A goals in 35 games and took Agüero’s place for the 2016 Copa America.
Argentina again lost to Chile on penalties, but Higuaín started six of his country’s games, including the final, in comparison to Agüero’s solitary start.
He now has a similar point to prove after a disappointing spell on loan at AC Milan and Sarri said: “In my first season in Naples, he arrived late due to the Copa America. He missed a penalty in the last match in Serie A and he missed a penalty in the final. But he reacted really very well, he was very keen and played an exceptional season.
“I think he is able to react very well to difficulties. At the moment he is really very keen, so I think that he can play a really very good last part of the season here.”
The pair may have instantly hit it off in Italy, but the straight talking did not stop as Sarri, while in charge of Naples, declared: “If he doesn’t win the Ballon d’Or in future then it’ll be all his fault. He’d be a right ****head.”
Explaining that comment at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground, Sarri said: “It was a message of confidence. I said this after the season in Naples, because that season he was really the best striker in Europe.
“He needs confidence first of all. He needs a very good relationship with the coach, with the team-mates. Sometimes he needs a message from the coach in the press conference. We will see in the future.”