As Diego Forlan arrived on the scene as a second-half substitute in Uruguay’s opening game of the Confederations Cup against Spain, many would have expected him to replace Edinson Cavani, who once again had done little to enhance his glowing reputation at club level. The surprise among the commentators was quite pronounced when it became clear that Forlan would supplement Cavani and Luis Suarez in attack. The best and most dangerous attacking trio in international football? Not quite.
Uruguay may have cemented their position as South America’s best team following their Copa America win in 2011, adding to their already impressive fourth place finish at the 2010 World Cup. But the Olympics last year did nothing for them as they crashed out of the group stage following a wholly uninspired set of performances, bar Luis Suarez, who, on his own, was like a man possessed.
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It’s been much of the same story for Edinson Cavani when representing his country. At the Olympics he was thrown out onto the right flank while Suarez accommodated the central forward position – a decision that will never make sense even a year after the tournament. As for the Copa America, it was won when Uruguay found their rhythm – after Cavani had been dropped out of the starting XI.
Does this all point to a huge gamble on Chelsea’s part if they lay down the cash needed to prise Cavani from Napoli? Well not really. Cavani’s poor performances at international level are Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez’s problem. At club level, he remains one of the game’s deadliest finishers and probably the best forward in Serie A. It’s almost to question whether clubs should reconsider their targeting of Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole or Joe Hart based solely on England’s poor performances.
Up until the past few days it seemed as though Real Madrid had Cavani in the bag – or at least extremely close. Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis convinced the player to offer the Naples club one more season when he sat down with Cavani last summer. And in true Hollywood fashion, De Laurentiis got what he wanted and presented the good news as if introducing a new signing.
There was something the club could have built on, as even though they were to lose Ezequiel Lavezzi to the rising power from Paris, the Coppa Italia win over Juventus had at least offered Cavani his first taste of silverware at club level in Europe and renewed focus for the following season. Despite the lack of Champions League football, Napoli put up a charge that would see them as one of the prime challengers against Juventus, falling short, however, as the Turin club retained the Serie A title.
And that could be Cavani’s bargaining chip, although Chelsea will jump right on board in using that to their advantage in the hunt for the player’s signature. Chelsea are unlikely to be short of silverware now that Jose Mourinho is back at the helm, and Cavani will certainly feel he deserves to line up for a club who were recently crowned European Champions.
But that’s not really the issue. The talking point is whether he is going to buck the trend set and continued by previous high-profile strikers at Stamford Bridge.
In European competition two seasons ago, Cavani was on the score sheet at the San Paolo when Napoli beat Chelsea in the last 16 of the Champions League. He was his dominant self in that game, proving that his abilities weren’t limited to domestic play.
His powerful frame seems ideally suited to the game in England. Cavani scored 38 goals for Napoli last season; the year prior he got 33 and the year before that 31. But then Shevchenko arrived from Italy as a prolific goal scorer, only to record nine league goals in his entire Chelsea career. But how damning are those stats for Shevchenko? Do they force Cavani to have an equally difficult time in the Premier League? Surely the Uruguayan will put an end to this train of misery for the club. At 26, he’s more than good enough and has plenty of time on his side.
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