Twice Ligue 1 champion. Twice Coupe de la Ligue Champion. One Copa America.
These are just a few of the trophies Edinson Cavani has been a part of while showcasing the array of skills modern football requires of its lone forwards, namely strength, pace, clinical finishing, work-rate and good movement. The Uruguyan striker is still a much sought-after player, as we read about every transfer window, but there’s one big question.
Has Cavani ever been the main man on any of those teams?
“El Matador” has yet to be the game-changer for Paris Saint-Germain, Uruguay and, to a lesser extent, Napoli despite averaging over 20 goals per game since the 2011/12 season. Those statistics illustrate the obvious qualities Cavani has but one gets the sense that he’s still coming up short. The player himself would point to his being played away from his favored central position as part of the reason for that. The fact that he still scores from these positions weakens that argument.
The Cavani conundrum has become increasingly prominent in the last few seasons. The big miss against Chelsea and poor performances in the leading role for Uruguay stick out. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s presence casts a major shadow at PSG and Cavani has yet to make his mark. The Swede has come back from injuries at various times this season to make key contributions while Cavani falters. His inability to displace a 34-year-old as the main striker, regardless of skill-level, leads to questions about his mentality. Indeed, his attitude was reportedly a major point of concern for higher-ups during the winter break.(h/t ESPN FC)
Cavani has failed to score or register an assist in five games since the turn of the year and has started only two. He failed to have an impact when coming on as a substitute but has seen other substitutes, Ibrahimovic in one case, make a difference when he’s preferred to start. He still has 13 goals and two assists all season according to ESPN. That productivity means the interest will continue but buyers should beware.
PSG is chasing a four-trophy haul this season and if Cavani fails to play a major role in any success, or is the cause for any such failure, then interest may dissipate. PSG will question, rightly so, whether they can count on him to be the main man, but there are really zero replacement options in terms of players with similar stature and skill-level.
Cristiano Ronaldo may not be a possibility until next summer due to Real Madrid’s transfer ban and Robert Lewandowski is unattainable. Sergio Aguero may be in that class as well while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang might still not be a fit project-wise.(Meaning very good but not elite nor necessarily a marketing magnet)
Other alternatives include Romelu Lukaku, Christian Benteke, Wilfried Bony, Javier Hernandez and or possibly even Olivier Giroud if they want to appeal to those looking for a more French feel to the side.
If Cavani shows he’s a difference-maker in the next few months then the decision is easy for PSG. If he continues to produce but only for the sake of statistical output then the summer will be interesting for all parties involved. At 28 going on 29, his window for being a truly elite player is closing.