Edinson Cavani's defensive workrate makes him a slightly better fit for English football than Radamel Falcao.
Statistically speaking, there is little that separates Edinson Cavani and Radamel Falcao—two of Europe’s most prolific strikers in recent years. Cavani, 25, has scored 25 goals in 23 matches in all competitions for Napoli this season while Atletico Madrid’s Falcao, 26, has bagged 21 in 19. Both have tallied at least 30 times in each of the previous two campaigns, and their international scoring records are also remarkably similar.
Not surprisingly, their exploits in front of goal have made them two of the most sought-after players in world football, and as neither currently plays for a club that is likely to keep them long term they could be headed for the exits either this month or during the summer.
To that end, a final comparison: Both have release clauses of €60 million in their contracts. Assuming a buyer will have to bid the full amount to trigger a transfer, their European destinations are probably limited to Real Madrid, Barcelona, Zenit St. Petersburg, Anzhi Makhachkala, Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League clubs Chelsea and Manchester City.
In Cavani’s case the bidding has already begun. Last summer Zenit offered €55 million for him but were quickly spurned by Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis. This would seem to suggest the Serie A side will not budge until the release clause is triggered, in which case Cavani’s eventual transfer stands to be the sixth-most expensive in football history.
It’s a rather different situation with Falcao. Atletico Madrid is experiencing some financial difficulties at present (they owe more than €100 million in unpaid taxes) and could well be forced to sell their prized asset to the highest bidder when the summer transfer window opens. In other words, there stand to be more clubs in play for his signature than for Cavani’s due to simple economics.
As far as the Premier League is concerned, this reality makes Falcao the better option from a financial standpoint, but what about on the pitch?
At 5'10", his stature is average, although his considerable upper body strength makes it seem as though he were much bigger. He also possesses the sort of close-body control so distinctive among South American forwards. Every part of his body is a weapon, and he is remarkably two-footed.
From his earliest days at River Plate to the trophy-laden years at Porto and now his time at Atletico Madrid, which has also included a Europa League title, Falcao has always found the back of the net with regularity.
He has adapted.
And there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t make a similarly smooth adjustment to the rigours of English football.
Cavani, by comparison, is physically imposing. At 6'2", he can jostle with most defenders, and his long, dark hair and rugged appearance have led to him being styled El Matador. He tends to operate a bit deeper than Falcao, and his superb positional sense means he also excels at using his teammates.
But what really sets Cavani apart is his work-rate on the defensive side of the ball. Napoli’s counter-attacking style requires everyone to take on defensive assignments in order to win back possession, and the Uruguayan attacks these duties with as much intensity as he does his obligations in the goalmouth.
Acquiring one of Cavani and Falcao would be a coup for any team in Europe, but as far as the Premier League is concerned, Cavani looks to be the better fit, if ever so slightly.