Ligue 1

Is Edinson Cavani The Most Underrated Striker in Football?

The World Cup has been and gone. Russia 2018 was a tournament for the history books. Goals, controversy, dramatics, anti-climaxes, for me, it will go down as the best international tournament ever.

An entertaining 169 goals were scored at the showpiece event, three from Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani. I’m not sure why we expected anything else from the Danubio youth product; he’s remained clinical throughout his glittering professional career.

Sure, all the plaudits will head in Harry Kane’s direction for scooping the Golden Boot, but once again, Cavani slipped under the radar. Which is exactly how he likes it.

Napoli

When the now 31-year-old moved to Napoli in 2010, he started firing from the get-go. In his three seasons with the Serie A side, consistency became key. Twice he struck 33 times, in his final year, Cavani fired home an impressive 38 goals. While in Naples, he was never the star name. That mantle was shared with Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi. Remember those two?

Then came his big-money move to Paris Saint-Germain. Although not the most vocal, Cavani’s decision was an extremely bold one. Fighting it out with the king of Paris, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, tells you everything you need to know about his self-confidence.

After a slow start, Cavani has settled into life at the Parc des Princes wonderfully, scoring an amazing 170 times in 245 appearances. In that time, the striker has claimed four Ligue 1 titles and nine domestic cup competitions. That’s some haul in five years.

Now it’s stick or twist time

He’s comfortable in Paris. Trophies are relatively easy to come by. For PSG, it’s all about the big one. Can he help deliver the Champions League crown? They’ve certainly got a squad capable, that front three, including Golden Boy winner Kylian Mbappe, will strike fear into opposing defences in every corner of the globe, make no mistake about it. If he stays, Cavani has to be that experienced leader, the man who digs in when the going gets tough. He has to carry his young teammates through when under the cosh. He’s certainly capable of doing just that.

The same rule applies at international level. Luis Suarez has always been a household name, albeit sometimes for the wrong reasons. Cavani, in typical fashion, wasn’t going to be outshone. 45 goals in 105 outings for his beloved Uruguay is a sublime return.

Efficient. Reliable. Trustworthy. Three key words I’d use to describe Cavani. When the going gets tough, he doesn’t shirk the blame or shy away. Instead, he comes to the fore. Look at the two screamers he scored against Portugal in the first knockout round at the World Cup. Under that pressure, when the lights were at their brightest, producing such quality isn’t easy.

Where’s the credit?

You need a hard-working forward? Cavani’s your man. He’ll run himself into the ground for the good of the team. It’s a trait he’s carried proudly with him for his career’s duration. In the modern-day game, it’s essential that strikers are now more than just goal-scorers. Look at Romelu Lukaku’s development at Manchester United, the same can be said for the aforementioned Kane. These days, front-men have to possess several strings to their bow if they’re to get a top-level job.

I guess my overriding emotion and feeling here is that Cavani doesn’t get anywhere near enough credit. Perhaps if he took that gamble to be the first name on the team-sheet then the plaudits may start flowing in, but that’s just not who he is. I’m sure he actually rather enjoys Neymar’s antics in the French capital, and the two have certainly formed a deadly combination over the last twelve months. I’d just like to see him take that leap of faith and be ‘the man’ rather than one of many. Is it too late to take the plunge?

At 31, Cavani’s best years are behind him. Perhaps this summer is the last possible chance for him to secure one final, big-money move. He certainly deserves it, and I’d love to see him play in the Premier League under a certain Maurizio Sarri. Will he get that opportunity? At this point in time, it doesn’t look all that likely, but as the old saying goes, you never say never in the beautiful game…

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