Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri has compared Gonzalo Higuain to Luis Suarez and says the on-loan striker “needs time” to improve.
The 31-year-old, who joined Chelsea on loan from Juventus in January, was an unused substitute in the 3-0 win over Brighton on Wednesday.
Sarri insists he wants to keep Higuain next season but wants him to improve physically for the Premier League.
“It was a problem for Suarez in the first season at Liverpool,” Sarri said.
Suarez joined Liverpool in January 2011 and scored four Premier League goals before the season ended. The following season he scored 11 league goals, before going on to score 23 and 31 respectively in those that followed.
“He has to improve physically, mentally, but I think also he will be able to be very useful for us in the last part of the season,” Sarri said of Higuain, who has scored three goals in eight league appearances for Chelsea.
“It’s not easy in the first months to play in the Premier League. It was a problem also for Suarez in the first season at Liverpool. He scored only a few goals. In the second season he scored more. So it’s not easy, especially for a striker, to play immediately well in the Premier League.
“I think he needs time to improve his physical condition and time to be suitable for the Premier League. I think he is able to do it.”
Sarri hopes to keep Higuain at Stamford Bridge next season but said it was dependant on both Chelsea and his parent club. Chelsea have the option to buy the Argentine for 36m euros (£31.3m) or to extend his loan deal until June 2020 for 18m euros (£15.6m).
“Yes of course [I want to keep him], but it depends on the club, it depends on Juventus,” said Sarri.
“It’s not clear the situation at the moment.”
Fifth-placed Chelsea face West Ham at Stamford Bridge on Monday.