“Apart from the great commitment that Edi showed in battling for every ball, both in defence and going forward, what stood out was his conviction. He was convinced that what he was doing would bring results. Something that really struck me the first day I brought him to train with the first team was the determination in his eyes, in his attitude towards commitment in the sessions.” – Gustavo Matosas, Coach of Danubio during their Clausura-winning campaign of 2007.
No quote quite encapsulates what Edinson Roberto Cavani Gómez is all about than that one. In many ways, this commitment and determination highlighted by Matosas is a reason Cavani is a fan favourite at all the clubs he has been. When Cavani isn’t scoring goals, he is back defending, putting his entire body on the line for his team. For a player who is supposed to be furthest forward, it’s ridiculous the amount of times you would find him back defending, not just set plays but open play attacks by opposition teams too. Even more ridiculous is how he has managed to rack up so many goals in his career while doing this consistently for over twelve years of his professional career. It’s insane.
Matosas describes Cavani as ‘generous’ in a self-sacrificing way, a man who would sacrifice himself physically for the team, a man who is always about the collective and is willing to let others take the shine. He may have had his ‘penalty-gate’ issues with Neymar this season but those were merely blips which were pretty much justifiable. After finally breaking Zlatan’s record, PSG has a penalty and Neymar, PSG’s new designated taker, offered Cavani the ball so he could take the penalty. In a way, it was his way of making up for not doing the same the week before when PSG led Dijon 7-0 and Cavani won a penalty. Neymar having already netted a hattrick went ahead to take it despite the fans chanting, asking for Cavani to take it so he could break Zlatan’s record. This time, Cavani was handed an opportunity to keep himself ahead in the race for the Ligue 1 and European Golden Boots. He declined and insisted Neymar take the kick. It is this generosity and willingness to let others shine that Matosas talked about. And he isn’t the only one to mention it. It is one of the reasons why Danubio, Napoli and PSG fans all love him. It is also why he has probably never been able to fulfil his immense potential, despite how much he has accomplished. It is probably why he is still so underrated and overlooked despite his accomplishments and incredible goal records. Cavani is simply not selfish enough.
Since January 1st, 2010, only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have scored more goals in all competitions (including national team) than Edinson Cavani, amongst players plying their trades in Europe’s biggest leagues. Apart from Edinson Cavani, only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have scored 25+ goals in 8 or more consecutive seasons. Also, Cavani has scored 30+ goals 5 times in his last 7 seasons. He needs three more goals this season to increase that to 6 times in his last 8 seasons. What is most remarkable about these feats is that he spent three seasons playing wide because of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. This was a period in which he endured the worst form of his life. In spite of that, he was still somehow scoring enough goals. When you look at these, you see how insane it is that Cavani is so overlooked and underrated.
Criticism of Cavani has always been that he is a ‘bottler’, a player who chokes in the biggest moments and misses far too many chances. As much as some of the criticism might be justified, most of it is narrative-driven and by people who simply do not watch him beyond unfortunate CL ties. It is simply a fact that the best strikers tend to miss a lot of chances because they tend to put themselves in situations where they get a lot of chances. Singling out one player for missing chances while overlooking others shows the power of insincere narratives. Let us look at the data; let us compare Cavani’s missed chances with those of two strikers often rated as the best in the world.
Clear Cut Chances missed between August 2015 and January, 2018 (League football):
Cavani – 71 missed in 90 games (0.78 misses per game)
Suarez – 68 missed in 88 games (0.77 misses per game)
Lewandowski – 68 missed in 84 games (0.80 misses per game)
Another major criticism of Cavani is that he chokes in big games; this majorly because of a game against Chelsea years ago during his bad period earlier in his PSG career, a time when he lost his sharpness in front of goal due to being played out of position. It is truly remarkable how this has stuck somehow and perception of him has never really changed since then. Of course, it was not helped by his ‘horror show’ against Arsenal last season, even though he still scored home and away against them. This happened just after the Metz game when he was still getting used to being the number 9 again following Zlatan’s departure. Once he fully settled back into his preferred role, he went on to score loads of goals and finish the season with 49 goals in 50 games.
Is Cavani really bad in big games? Not entirely true. Actually, not true at all. While in Italy, Cavani scored hattricks against Juventus, Inter, Milan, Lazio (twice) and Roma while scoring three times in two games against Man City in the Champions League. He also scored a goal and delivered 2 assists against Chelsea in the Champions League Second Round first leg game against Chelsea. Also, Edi has scored 9 goals in 8 career finals (he came on in the 90th minute in one of those finals). Last season, he scored home and away against Barcelona and Arsenal and also scored 5 times in 4 games against the rampaging Monaco side that reached the CL semi finals. This season, he has already scored against Bayern Munich. Surely, a man who has done all these cannot be overlooked! Guess what, he is. Quite often too.
Becoming PSG’s all-time top scorer is perhaps poetic justice. It’s an incredible feat for a man who has come under severe scrutiny, mostly undeserved, and been the subject of a lot of negative talk. There was a time when he was not even loved in Paris. Now, he has cemented his place as a legend at the club. He needs four more goals to become PSG’s all time Ligue 1 top scorer, surpassing Zlatan. They keep rolling in.
All-time top scorer – Cavani
Most goals in the Coupe de la Ligue – Cavani
Most goals in UEFA competitions – Cavani
Most away goals in a Ligue 1 season – Cavani
Most goals in a match – Cavani (shared)
One thing is certain – no matter how underrated Cavani is when he retires, he will retire a PSG legend and it will be well-deserved. He has chased every ball, put his body on the line, defended, attacked, let others shine, fought for the team and his teammates, delivered trophies and contributed blood, sweat and tears to the PSG story. With fifteen trophies already won and more to come, El Matador’s mission in Paris is almost complete.