According to RMC Radio in France on Tuesday, Paris Saint-Germain have reached an agreement with Napoli’s prolific Uruguayan marksman Edinson Cavani. The reports stopped short of claiming that the two clubs have agreed a fee, but it did claim that Les Parisiens have struck a deal in principle with the player and his entourage.
Both PSG’s sporting director Leonardo (via ESPNFC) as well as various sections (via Football Italia) of the Italian media later rejected those reports. But following the capital club’s links with Wayne Rooney—also denied by the Brazilian—it is clear that PSG are chasing a striker this summer.
Does that mean Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be departing the French capital? Not exactly.
Although Cavani could quite easily take over the Swede’s mantle as the focal point of Carlo Ancelotti’s attack. However, it is not yet a foregone conclusion that Ibra will leave the soon-to-be renovated Parc des Princes this summer.
The stories documenting Ibrahimovic’s unhappiness in Paris are well publicised, and if you believe the Italian press, he has already signed for Juventus. But looking at the 31-year-old’s situation in football terms, the move for Cavani would go a long way towards solving both Zlatan and PSG’s problems.
One of the main reasons Ibrahimovic is likely unhappy in the French capital is the tremendous amount of pressure he is put under, shouldering the weight of expectation on the team through his role as the team’s most productive element. When Ibra doesn’t play or is not on song, the fans don’t get on the players’ backs, they get on his.
Rightly or wrongly, the towering striker has taken this to heart, probably feeling that his sensational goal-scoring feats (33 goals in all competitions and counting) are unappreciated. He certainly hinted at that after PSG’s come-from-behind victory over Nancy last month. Plenty has been made of the 75 percent tax law playing a part in any potential decision to leave, though it must be emphasized that the club and not the individual would pay this.
It has been obvious for a while that the Swede needs another natural striker, one with predatory instincts, alongside him for PSG to recognise their awesome potential and fulfill the owners’ expectations of domestic and European dominance.
An impressive Champions League quarterfinal showing against Barcelona will have encouraged the club and any potential signings ahead of next campaign, and the signing of Cavani would be geared towards making an even bigger impact on the continental stage.
That impact would be muted somewhat without Ibrahimovic though.
The former AC Milan man has been instrumental in everything that Ancelotti’s side have done this season, and to sell, or even worse allow their most valuable player to leave would be an error. It would also be a mistake on Ibrahimovic’s part.
PSG were expected to win this season’s title even before the Swede arrived in the French capital. Although it is a massive achievement winning a first title in 19 years (assuming they finally do), it arguably counts for little in the grand scheme of things from Ibra’s perspective and crucially from the point of view of those who will judge him on a solitary season in Ligue 1.
It would add to this idea that the mercurial striker is a mercenary and doesn’t have the necessary ambition to become a world-beater like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, preferring to remain a flat-track bully in two of Europe’s supposed sub-leagues.
If Les Parisiens can capture Cavani, it makes Ancelotti’s side a totally different proposition, particularly in Europe.
It might have been Ibrahimovic’s goals that have captured him the headlines this season, but it has been impossible to not notice how much more creative and unselfish he has become with age. The Swedish international has found time to lay on 14 assists across all competitions (seven in the Champions League alone) this term as well as bagging 33 goals.
When watching him, particularly in Europe, his creativity comes to the fore. He orchestrates the play for PSG and everything flows through him. The approach play, the goals, everything. To get the best out of this genius player, PSG have been crying out for a player of Cavani’s calibre to allow Ibrahimovic to focus on this aspect of his game.
Ezequiel Lavezzi, Cavani’s former teammate at Napoli, has partnered Ibrahimovic up front for most of this season, alternating with Jeremy Menez and Kevin Gameiro.
Those three have not been clinical enough though when it comes to the big moments. PSG may well win the league by more than a nine-point margin but that is more thanks to their rivals’ inconsistency than PSG thoroughly dominating Ligue 1.
Ancelotti’s side have not reached that level of consistency yet and it is because they do not have someone to share Ibrahimovic’s burden and to take the weight off of his shoulders. Cavani will be perfect for that.
On too many occasions this season PSG have been frustrated by dogged opponents in Ligue 1 that defend to the hilt, or punished in Europe for missing gilt-edged chances. The key chances in games like that have largely fallen to Ibrahimovic’s strike partner because of the way Les Rouge-et-Bleu create their chances.
Lavezzi is arguably more effective in his natural left-sided berth, and with Lucas Moura on the right, Cavani would provide the clinical edge that has been missing this campaign.
The Champions League, whether the club state it or not, will be PSG and Ibrahimovic’s (wherever he is) main goal next season to better their quarterfinal showing against Barcelona and perhaps to even make the final itself. This will be infinitely more possible with a player like Cavani on board. The true value of the transfer will only be recognised though if Ibrahimovic stays or the club find a new No. 10.
Of course, PSG do have Javier Pastore, who is already capable of playing in that role, but he failed when given the chance to impress earlier in Ancelotti’s reign. Moura could also play there but appears to be more effective, at least domestically, from the right.
With everyone asking questions of Ibrahimovic’s future (as they do every summer), it could in fact be Pastore who finds himself faced with a tough decision regarding his future. The Argentine would also likely be more affordable salary-wise than the Swede to his Italian suitors.
Cavani though is certainly the missing piece of the puzzle for PSG. But if he simply replaces Ibrahimovic, the capital club are only trading like for like but losing out on creativity. The potential capture of Cavani would be a major coup, but only if PSG can keep the Swede who remains their most influential player.