Neymar can help Cavani emerge from footballing shadows

Date published: Friday 18th August 2017 2:10

Since its return on Friday night, the Premier League has shown why it is the most watched league in the world. Constantly described as ‘the best league in the world’, some consider it as the finest barometer to judge a footballer’s talent. If one does not perform well in England at any point in their career, they have not proven themselves in the eyes of many. Edinson Cavani has not yet arrived on these shores, and perhaps that is why he is criminally neglected when it comes to discussing world-class forwards.

Born in Salto, a city located in northwestern Uruguay, parents Luis and Berta allowed Cavani to pursue his love for football at a young age. Before long, offers flooded in from local clubs. Basing his game on the great Gabriel Batistuta, Serie A’s 12th highest scorer with 184 goals in 318 matches, Cavani became known as ‘El Matador’. He would score seven goals for Uruguay in the U-20 South American Youth Championship, which featured Bayern Munich star Arturo Vidal. His journey in professional football began at Danubio before moves to Palermo and Napoli led him to his current destination, Paris Saint-Germain.

The 30-year-old forward enters his fourth season in Paris since arriving for a then-Ligue 1 record of €66m, signing a five-year deal as the club began their venture to the summit of French football. Just a year before, Zlatan Ibrahimović was bought for a fee of €20 million from AC Milan as Nasser Al-Khelaifi showed the first glimpses of his football power. With Ibrahimović already making himself the face of France from the start, Cavani’s influence in his new colours would always be unheralded, but even after the Swede’s departure from the Parisian club, Cavani’s global reputation has hardly improved.

Much like Ibrahimović, Cavani has aged like a fine wine. His best goalscoring form since his arrival in France came last season as he notched 35 league goals, with seven coming from penalties. It beats his previous best of 19, which may not be surprising given Ibrahimović’s move to Manchester United allowed him a more central role. But Cavani’s game isn’t just about goals. He’s not a player who is anonymous in PSG’s build-up before poaching a finish like Javier Hernández. El Matador is much more than that; there is a reason his movement is so highly regarded.

“I think this lad’s possibly the best mover in world football,” Michael Owen said earlier this year. “His movement is phenomenal. He’s scored 37 or something this season, he’s a phenomenal striker. I just adore watching him.”

It was one supreme striker falling in love with another and rightly so. The former Napoli forward has played 201 games for PSG and scored an incredible 132 goals, with the latest coming in the club’s second Ligue Un fixture of the season against Guingamp. He is a master of manipulating the opposition defence and this season could well be his finest.

The transfer window’s biggest story thus far is Neymar’s €220m to Paris. The star of Barcelona’s thrilling 6-1 comeback in the Champions League has now switched forces in order to deliver Unai Emery and Nasser Al-Khelaifi a European trophy. Now, with the Brazilian becoming the face of the PSG brand, he will take the spotlight off of Cavani as Ibrahimovic once did.

However, Neymar’s style of play can benefit Cavani’s goalscoring instincts more than ever before. Whilst opposition managers will focus on Neymar’s presence on the left flank, Cavani should be able to operate without as much attention as usual, allowing Neymar to have more space and in return, locate Cavani. Given Neymar’s 18 assists in La Liga and the Champions League alone last season, it’s a partnership that could easily be created and one that could become formidable in world football. We saw the first glimpses of it on Sunday night.

Both Cavani and Neymar scored against Guingamp and the pair assisted one another’s strikes. Neymar’s sublime pass slotted Cavani through in the 62nd minute before the number nine inevitable scored; exactly 20 minutes later, Cavani’s cutback led to Neymar earning his first Ligue Un goal of the season, but definitely not his last. If it wasn’t for chances missed by PSG the Brazilian would have had a hat-trick of assists.

If the pair can form a relationship, it may present an opportunity for Cavani’s presence to be noticed in world football. The South American duo combined wonderfully on their first outing, and will hope that translates to the European stage on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

The most obvious reasoning behind Cavani’s lack of attention is the league in which he plies his trade in. Ligue Un is not watched by as many fans as the Premier League or La Liga, with many disparagingly considering it a ‘farmers’ league’. But it is the same platform which has launched Kylian Mbappé into the footballing stratosphere, and where Alexandre Lacaztte was the latest of many to earn his big move to England.

Due to the general opinion of Ligue Un, Cavani remains one of the world’s most under-appreciated forwards. Forming a double act with Neymar will help him finally earn the plaudits he deserves.


Jordan Clarke – follow him on Twitter.

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