Paris Saint-Germain seem destined to fail.
This was seemingly the best chance at European glory they were going to get, with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus appearing to be less strong than normal, and their last 16 opponents Real Madrid significantly off form.
And yet, when the pressure ramped up, the Parisians crumbled. We’re still only halfway in the tie, but you get the feeling that the more things change, the more they stay the same for the Ligue 1 leaders after years of trying.
One of the few constants is Edinson Cavani. Managing only 11 touches and seven accurate passes, his night was hardly the most productive one, and he’s never managed to take the next step in Europe with his club, who have made it only as far as the semi-final despite being the only trophy they really want to win.
The Uruguayan is arguably the club’s most loyal servant. There are others, like Thiago Silva, who have been there just as long and won the same haul of trophies, but Cavani has had to be patient and serve his time more than anyone else.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s all-starring role forced the Uruguayan to a position on the wing. Last season was a transitional year for the Parisians, who allowed Cavani to play in the centre for the first time, but weren’t really good enough throughout the rest of the team to back him up with enough assists on the biggest stages.
This year, he has already scored 27 goals in Ligue 1 and the Champions League, but he has very much been overshadowed by another star player in Neymar – a man simply bigger than PSG are as a club, and a player who can literally pick and choose his matches.
It would be no surprise to see Cavani stay in Paris despite the fact that the Parisian dressing room has changed its hierarchy. The old servant Cavani now seems to be shunted to the side to make way for Neymar, Dani Alves and those close to the apparent Brazilian clique, but he’s always been loyal.
It should also be no surprise to see him depart, however.
The Premier League is always an ideal destination for top European talent, but Cavani is a particularly interesting prospect. In fact, there’s a small resemblance to another new recruit to the Premier League this season, at least on one interesting level.
Mohamed Salah has scored 28 goals in the league and in the Champions League this season, one more than Cavani. And the two have something in common: their movement and their ability to find the right position is second to none, whilst their finishing ability is mind-bogglingly inconsistent.
That sounds strange for two of the top scorers in European football this season. For Cavani, it’s something which has been flagged up over the past few seasons – the fact he misses so many chances, and often the easier ones. For Salah, it’s gone a little bit unnoticed because he scores so many, too.
Both players can seem frustrating in that sense, doing so well to carve out the chance but so terribly to miss it. And yet that sort of misses the point: the reason that these two very different players get so many goals isn’t because they are good finishers, but intelligent runners who find the space brilliantly. And as a result of that, they get enough chances to miss a few and still bag stunning amounts of goals.
And if Salah can do it, then why not Cavani?
It would be a gamble. The Uruguayan is 31 years of age, now, and he’s also a central striker, not the pacey, skillful winger type of player than Salah is. But his age shouldn’t be such a problem – Cavani isn’t a goalscorer because of his power and pace, more his intelligence and his brain.
Should Manchester United see him as an alternative to Romelu Lukaku? Should Chelsea look to him instead of Olivier Giroud as backup to (or potential replacement for) Alvaro Morata? Or should Tottenham think of him as the striker who can help bag goals when Harry Kane needs a rest (or indeed – though less likely – rocks up at Real Madrid next season)?
Despite becoming something of a punchline in England for his profligacy, Cavani is still a thoroughly good striker with a skillset that could have a huge impact on the Premier League. And at his age, he may well be even better as an impact substitution and rotation player.