Will the Real Cavani Please Stand Up?

After a dull 1-1 draw against Monaco last October, French newspaper Le Parisien ran a front page photo of Edinson Cavani with the headline; “The man who was not worth 64million.” At the time, it was hard to argue with them.

It wasn’t that long ago when Cavani was being compared to Diego Maradona at Napoli. After arriving from Palermo in 2010, the Uruguayan striker went on to score in his first three Serie A matches and finished the season with 33 goals in all competitions. In the 2011-12 season, Cavani scored 23 Serie A goals and led La Coppa Italia in goals scored. He continued his goal-scoring prowess into his third season and led Serie A with 29.

A star was born; or so it seemed.

In the summer of 2013, Paris Saint-Germain took the plunge. Warding off competition from Manchester City, Chelsea, and Real Madrid, PSG completed the five year, €64.5 million signing of Cavani. It was the sixth largest transfer in history at the time and remains the most expensive transfer in Ligue 1 history. His first goal against Ajaccio was a thing of beauty. He scored four goals in five Champions League group stage matches and finished his first season at the capital club with 25 goals in 43 appearances in all competitions. Considering he also missed about a month due to a thigh injury, it was pretty good first season for El Matador. Yet his form dipped as the year went along and he was criticized for not scoring in the loss to Chelsea in the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

Heading into his second season, speculation was swirling over his position on the pitch. Would manager Laurent Blanc keep him out wide in the 4-3-3 formation or play Cavani up front alongside star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

In the summer of 2014, or possibly earlier, something happened. The Cavani from Napoli lost his way. He divorced his longtime wife in 2014 and some speculated this was the reason he came into the 2014 domestic season in poor form.

Cavani started the 2014-15 campaign particularly slow, scoring only eight goals in the first 25 games league games. He was playing out wide again, only shifting back and forth with Zlatan when the Swede decided to drop deeper into the midfield. Then he and teammate Ezequiel Lavezzi arrived late to training after the winter break and Blanc suspended the players for two matches. Palermo President Maurizio Zamparini slammed coach Blanc, saying he did not understand Cavani and was not good enough to manage PSG.

The criticism reached a crescendo during a match against Monaco at the Parc on October 5, 2014. Cavani played perhaps his poorest game since arriving and the crowd let him know about it. So poor was his display that by the end of the game the Parisien crowd tried to cheer up the clearly distraught striker. The season went on like a roller coaster for a few weeks. Cavani would score one game, then go three without a goal.

Then on April 5, PSG visited rivals Marsielle to play in the French classico, or Le Classique. PSG were not yet top of the league and needed points in what was a very tight race at the top of the table. But Cavani disappointed once again and was subbed off just before the hour mark. He made a brief gesture of displeasure towards Blanc as he walked off the pitch. The media picked up on the story and ran with it, speculating there was a big clash between the two men and that one had to go. We’ll never really know what happened that day between the two, but since then, everything changed for El Matador.

Cavani led the French giants in goals scored in the Champions League, as well as a few crucial goals in the knockout rounds of the domestic cup, yet in Ligue 1 play he struggled. Ibrahimovic was suspended for a few games for a tirade against French officials and was dealing with injuries. This meant that Cavani would have to shoulder the load for a few weeks as the top man, essentially what he had always wanted. This was the beginning of the renaissance of Cavani.

He went on to score 10 goals in the next 6 games, including a brace in the Coupe De La Ligue final and the only goal in the Coupe de France final. He scored his first hat trick for the capital club against Guingamp and the Parisien giants blew by their Ligue 1 rivals in route to a historic domestic treble, the first in French football history. Things started to click with the team and the media in France went from wanting to sell Cavani to praising his attitude. Cavani won over supporters with his defensive mentality and incredible work rate so when the goals finally did start coming back for El Matador, the consensus was that the club should do everything it can to keep him in Paris. Club President Nasser Al-Khelaifi said he wouldn’t even look at a €50 million offer for him and called Cavani “the best striker in the world.”

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Cavani scores a crucial goal against Chelsea in the Champions League.

So here we are in the summer of 2015 and it has not been kind to Cavani. His father was arrested in Uruguay after his involvement in an accident that killed a 19-year-old motorcyclist. At the Copa America, he went goal-less and was sent off in the quarterfinal against Chile in a manner that made headlines. All of this happened in a span of about a week and PSG supporters must now be wondering what kind of player will be arriving at the Parc for the upcoming season.

With it likely being Ibrahimovic’s final season at the club, it’s a make or break campaign for the Uruguayan. Score goals and the future is yours. Fail to impress and departure may be in the cards. Will he keep his good run of form from the end of last season going? Will he play more central? Will he stay until the end of the season? Will he even want to stay? These are all intriguing questions as we get closer to the start of the 2015-2016 season.

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