AFTER six and a half years, 14 major trophies and a club-record 198 goals, Edinson Cavani wants out of Paris Saint-Germain.
Injury struggles and the arrival on loan of Mauro Icardi have limited Cavani’s opportunities this season. The long-time spearhead of The Parisiens' attack has made just four starts in Ligue 1, racking up a paltry total of 330 league minutes for the French champions.
The Paris Saint-Germain Cavani will leave if he gets his wish this month is virtually unrecognisable from the one he found upon his €64m arrival from Napoli, and his consistency and selflessness is as big a factor as any in the club’s onfield success during the era of Qatari ownership.
Paris had never won back-to-back titles before Cavani signed. They have won five out of six with him on board. He played wide to fit in alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic, then took centre-stage to score 49 goals the season after the Swede’s departure. He shared set-piece duties with Neymar and helped create a platform for Kylian Mbappe, the future of the club, all while maintaining close to a goal-per-game strike rate.
WORLD CLASS STRIKER AVAILABLE FOR €20m
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) January 21, 2020
Now, with his contract set to expire this summer, Cavani is presumably unwilling to fade into insignificance in Paris by hanging around. Ready to make his mark and prove his worth elsewhere, despite his 33rd birthday creeping up in February, he has options.
Chelsea are believed to be among Cavani’s strongest suitors if he leaves the Parc des Princes this month. The Blues have seen their transfer ban reduced, meaning they are free to make acquisitions again, and manager Frank Lampard has made little effort to disguise his interest in adding the veteran Uruguayan to his striking options.
"He's a great player; I played against him and always loved his mentality and attitude, and his scoring record speaks for itself," Lampard said. "I'm not absolutely aware of what the situation is, so we'll see.”
After exceeding expectations at the start of the season, Chelsea’s grip on a top-four place has loosened in recent weeks, owing to having suffered six defeats in their last 11 Premier League games. The fact they were scoreless in their last three losses, against Newcastle United, Southampton and Bournemouth – a level of opposition the Blues would be expected to dispatch comfortably – will not have been lost on Lampard.
The returning club legend has earned plaudits for the faith he has placed in a core of young, home-grown players this term. But, with a place in next season’s Champions League on the line, the addition of an experienced campaigner of Cavani’s unquestionable calibre could be a shrewd and potentially decisive mid-season move, especially as Tammy Abraham, who for a while sat atop the Premier League’s scoring chart, has found the net only twice in his last eight league games.
Manchester United also find themselves in desperate need of attacking reinforcements this month. New frontline recruits were likely already among Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s priorities, but a long-term injury to top scorer Marcus Rashford has hastened the Red Devils’ efforts to sign a striker.
A €50m move for Lyon’s Moussa Dembele has been mooted, but Cavani represents a viable alternative and, given his contract is winding down, possibly an easier deal to make.
248 – Since Edinson Cavani made his Palermo debut in March 2007, only Lionel Messi (420) and Cristiano Ronaldo (398) have scored more goals in Europe's top five leagues than the Uruguayan (248). Matador. pic.twitter.com/EJjH2eVKjM
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 21, 2020
Tottenham, too, stand out as an obvious potential destination for the Uruguayan. Jose Mourinho has always coveted players of experience and proven quality, virtues abundant in Cavani. And Harry Kane’s lengthy absence has left the Portuguese tactician having to field Cavani's former teammate in Paris, 5ft 8ins winger Lucas Moura, at the point of attack – a situation Mourinho, who prefers a more imposing, totemic front man, cannot be happy about.
At 6ft tall, Cavani is hardly a battering ram of a target man, but he is exceptional in the air, possesses the wiry strength to hold up the ball and link play, and an intelligence of movement Spurs will otherwise be bereft of until Kane’s eventual return.
Away from the Premier League, Atletico Madrid are frontrunners for Cavani’s signature. The former Palermo and Napoli striker has a long-time admirer in Diego Simeone and has been linked with a big-money move to the red-and-white side of the Spanish capital multiple times in the recent past.
Leonardo, Paris Saint-Germain’s sporting director, has already confirmed that Atleti have made an approach for Cavani, and the addition of the 32-year-old could be just the tonic to breathe new life into an attack which, with just 22 goals from 20 games, has been outscored by 11 of La Liga’s 20 teams so far this season. And although any move for Cavani would be considered a short-term solution, playing alongside the 116-cap Uruguay star would surely have long-term benefits for 20-year-old record signing Joao Felix.
The left-field escape option for Cavani is David Beckham’s Inter Miami. The MLS newcomers don’t play their first game of the 2020 season until 1 March, which would mean the striker would either have to wait out the remainder of his contract in Paris or, if a deal can be struck between the two clubs, forgo competitive action for a couple of months. Considering his battles with niggling injuries this term, such a layoff could see Cavani rejuvenated come Miami’s big MLS kickoff against Los Angeles FC.
His powers might be on the wane, and it will surely sting the ego of such an established and consistently exceptional player to no longer be first choice at the club he helped grow. But a striker of Cavani’s pedigree, whose greatest tools – timing, movement, technique – have not yet been blunted by time, will always be in demand.