He might not have been the signing Manchester United fans were angling for all summer, but Edinson Cavani finally made the move to Old Trafford on deadline day to give Ole Gunnar Solskjaer another option up front.
And not just any old option – Cavani is one of the most prolific forwards to play at the top level in Europe in recent years, with over 400 career goals for club and country, including 200 for Paris Saint-Germain, where he became the club’s all-time leading scorer.
It will certainly be intriguing to see the Uruguay international in the Premier League at last, but is he really arriving at the peak of his powers? Or is this a panic buy for Man Utd?
Former Red Devils midfielder Luke Chadwick told CaughtOffside that the Cavani signing has the potential to be a ‘stroke of genius’ by the club, but we thought we’d speak to someone who knows him well – PSG fan and blogger Ed of PSG Talk.
United fans will do well to read this interesting insight on Cavani, with Ed explaining precisely what they can realistically expect from him, and what might disappoint them about their new signing…
COS: Edinson Cavani was one of the most high-profile deadline day signings this week as he joined Man Utd, but how exactly did his PSG exit come about and do you think it was the right decision?
Ed: Edinson Cavani’s departure from PSG should have included a lap around the Parc des Princes after his final home game with the supporters singing his name. Instead, the entire situation feels empty. Cavani looked to be close to leaving in January but ultimately, Leonardo, PSG’s sporting director, decided that the Uruguay international was more valuable in the squad for depth than whatever transfer fee was being offered. Then the pandemic hit. Cavani’s contract at PSG expired in June and with the Champions League set to resume in August, Cavani needed to sign a temporary extension to remain in the squad similar to what Thiago Silva did. Cavani chose to focus on his next adventure, which to me, was a slap in the face to the supporters and the team he battled with all season. From a business point of view, I suppose it makes sense for Cavani as he was able to avoid injury while looking for a new team, but being that he is PSG’s all-time leading scorer and a fan favourite, it would have been great to see him go on that fantastic Champions League run. Who knows, maybe he’d have been able to score a goal against Bayern Munich in the final.
Cavani leaves PSG as the club’s all-time leading scorer – where would you rate him in terms of the best players in the history of the club?
This is a tough one as “best” is so subjective. Some people really rate goals and will say Cavani is the best while others appreciate a more complete game. If you go back to pre-QSI takeover, I think supporters would rate players like Rai and Pauleta ahead of Cavani. You could even make the case Ronaldinho is better than Cavani. In terms of recent history, there’s no denying Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s impact both on and off the pitch. Oh, and two current squad members, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar Jr., are pretty good too. In my opinion, Cavani is safely in the top five for the best players in PSG history.
Despite a great career, Cavani is now 33 years of age and scored only four goals in Ligue 1 last season – do you think he still has what it takes to make an impact at a club like Man Utd?
I really hope not since PSG and Manchester United will meet twice in the Champions League group stage! You hit the nail on the head though by mentioning his age. Not only that, but he’s battled multiple injuries the past couple of seasons, which is likely why PSG didn’t work too hard to sign him to an extension and preferred Mauro Icardi. I think Cavani still has something in the tank but it’s all going to come down to whether or not he can stay healthy. I’m not sure that’s going to be possible given the speed of the Premier League and the fact his recent injuries have been muscle-related. It’s also important to note that Cavani hasn’t played a competitive match since March. United fans will have to be patient with El Matador.
Cavani’s stats are impressive, but there’s a bit of a perception from Premier League fans that he’s something of a ‘flat-track bully’ and that he tends to bottle it and miss sitters in big games – do you think this is unfair?
That’s a harsh assessment but I think it’s a fair one. The only part I might push back on is the part about big games. Cavani misses sitters in all types of games! I don’t think he’s a player that is affected by the bright lights of an important match. He’s scored plenty of big goals for PSG but he sure does miss a ton! To use a basketball reference, he’s a volume shooter. United fans shouldn’t be discouraged when he misses an easy goal because more than likely, he’ll end up on the scoresheet one way or another.
If Cavani doesn’t play 90 minutes week in, week out at Man Utd, does he have the qualities to be a leader in the dressing room or on the training ground, an experienced head for young forwards like Rashford and Greenwood to learn from?
Cavani didn’t love backing up Icardi and when Zlatan was in Paris, he reluctantly moved out wide to accommodate the striker in the starting lineup. Cavani isn’t a player that will publicly complain if he’s not getting minutes or played out of position so in that sense, he’s a good teammate, but I wouldn’t call him a leader. His personality is unique and I’m not sure many other footballers can relate. This is a guy who enjoys shearing sheep and swinging a scythe on his farm in Uruguay. He may offer a few pointers about positioning for United’s young players but I can’t seem him taking them under his wing or wearing the captain’s armband.
Another big name to recently leave PSG was Thiago Silva – he’s got off to a bit of a poor start at Chelsea, but do you think he’s still capable of making an impact at a top Premier League club?
I do not. Silva is older than Cavani at 36-years-old and he was never blessed with great recovery speed. He is still elite at defensive positioning and organising his back-line, but when it comes to the Premier League’s best attackers, I think he will be exposed when they run at him. You mentioned earlier that Cavani perhaps bottles it in big games, well, just look at Silva’s history in big games and I think Chelsea might have a problem on their hands if they plan to rely on him to win major trophies this season.
Silva recently said in an interview that he felt his and Cavani’s departures from PSG were handled badly – what went on there, and do you share that view?
I can see why they feel that way but they’re forgetting that football is a business. Cavani and Silva are not only well into their 30s, but they were on astronomical wages at PSG. While everyone might think that PSG has this endless stream of cash from Qatar, that’s just not the case (see their loan deals this transfer window). The club could not afford to maintain their wages or give them the increase they likely wanted and so they moved on. The pandemic made the entire situation feel worse as the players weren’t given the sendoff they deserve for their years of service but it was 100% the right decision from the club.
And finally, focusing on PSG, how have the club rebuilt since losing the Champions League final, and can they go one further this season?
I still think they’re a step behind Bayern Munich and Liverpool if I’m being honest. If they can get lucky and avoid those clubs, then I think they can win the Champions League, but I don’t feel as though they’ve added enough quality to key positions to threaten those two clubs even with the additions of Alessandro Florenzi, Moise Kean, and Danilo Pereira. Having said that, Mbappe and Neymar still reside in Paris and with those two players, anything is possible.