Edinson Cavani in Naples is deemed a deity, the Archbishop of Naples, Crescenzio Sepe, himself saying “God serves himself by having Cavani score goals.” In Paris however, before the season just gone, ‘Christ’s athlete’ was struggling to find his place. His years spent in Sicily, the ‘boot’ of Italy, with Palermo were spent on the right wing, accommodating Amauri and Fabrizio Miccoli but his move to Napoli was a reprieve. Propped up by Hamšík and Lavezzi, the Uruguayan was the main man. A move to Paris saw his three years of God-like superiority come crashing down; this time shunted to the left wing. Not even a €64 million price tag protecting the now 30-year-old from a somewhat humbling relationship with Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The summer transfer window saw the engimatic Swede move on to Manchester and, with doubts about his own future, El Matador was ready to get back into the bull ring. A return to his centre forward position wasn’t exactly met with frenzied anticipation, most feeling a general uncertainty. Cavani’s last spell as figurehead saw him net just three open play goals in twelve games for Uruguay with Suarez suspended; Cavani managed no goals or assists in 333 minutes of Copa America 2015 action.
The 2016/17 season was different. With Unai Emery now at the helm of the Parisiens, Cavani’s winger woes almost instantly turned back into striking success. Now back in the centre, Cavani swapped the ferocious mohawk of Hamšík and the immediacy of Lavezzi for the guile craft of Marco Verratti and direct creativity of Angel Di Maria. PSG’s first home game against Metz saw match reports across the globe suggest Cavani wasn’t fit to fill the gap left by the departed Ibrahimović. The striker missed a host of guilt edged chances, mistimed runs, misplaced simple passes and saw his touch evade him on multiple occasions. Whistled off the pitch, the Parisien faithful knew something had to be done and Cavani understood he had to improve.
As time ticked by the pieces were quickly beginning to come together, the first to appear was movement. Almost a month after his Metz nightmare Cavani terrorised Arsenal, lauded for his work rate and devastating runs however he was still lambasted for a lack of finishing despite scoring PSG’s fastest ever Champions league goal after 42 seconds. That was on Tuesday, by Friday the finishing had arrived. A trip up to Normandy saw Caen the opposition devoured by Cavani’s potency in front of goal; sweeping in Maxwell’s cross with his left on two occasions, either side of his penalty conversion, before smartly finishing off Meunier’s incisive pass. Cavani had netted four before halftime.
From bull to Matador. In the next 32 league games, Cavani scored in 22 of them including 8 braces. At the start of the season Cavani wasn’t quite up to speed, the bull chases the red rag but never quite gets it. Now he had exploded, the bull became the Matador, controlling what goes where and who feels what. A brace in both the semi-finals and final of the Coupe de la Ligue against Bordeaux and Monaco respectively perfectly displays his domestic dominance. His European esteem also grew, featuring for every minute of PSG’s Champions league campaign and scoring eight goals in the process.
Cavani’s thunderous half-volley in the Nou Camp sums up his campaign. A great personal season for a team not quite good enough; embarrassed by Barcelona in the same game, beaten by Monaco in the title race. The saving grace, two domestic trophies that the club has won for the past three and four years consecutively, the Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue.
Breaking records and looming over milestones set by the man whose talent sidelined the Uruguayan, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Cavani looks to overtake his “inspiring” peer. Although he insists the PSG goal record is not on his mind, “The objective is to win, not to beat Zlatan Ibrahimović’s goal record. With time, maybe I will beat his record but it’s not the objective.” Edinson Cavani plays for only one man, God, although he entertained many more in the season just gone.
By: Elliott Martin-@ElliottM95