On a family trip to Rome last week, I took my wife and two kids to see Roma play Napoli at the Stadio Olimpico.
After just 10 minutes from our vantage point in the Tribuna Tevere, my wife Esther and my seven-year-old son Louis both asked the same question: “Who is the Napoli No. 7? He’s incredible!”
No. 7 was, of course, Edinson Cavani. The Uruguayan’s talent stands out like a beacon to anyone who watches football.
On this occasion, while Cavani couldn’t help his side avoid losing 2-1 to Roma, he did score a late consolation goal.
But throughout the 90 minutes, Cavani was a joy to watch.
His movement, so lithe and fluid, constantly took him into dangerous positions in and around the penalty area. On the ball, he was a constant threat, effortlessly gliding past defenders with his pace and graceful balance.
This was the final game of the Serie A season. Napoli were guaranteed to finish second and earn a place in the Champions League, so this was effectively a dead rubber, but no one had told Cavani.
Under the circumstances, his work rate was exceptional. He never stopped moving, always wanted the ball and always wanted to create a chance.
Greater judges than my family have also been impressed.
I was in the stands for the Champions League games between Napoli and Manchester City, so realised Edinson Cavani is on another level.
He runs, battles, scores goals on the counter and in the box, maybe even surrounded by four or five opponents. [Walter] Mazzarri deserves credit for turning Cavani into a total player and not just a hit man.
Of course, Cavani did his most potent work in front of goal.
He scored a total of 38 goals this season—and most in Italy, the home of the tight defence, where cheap goals are rarely given away.
In his three seasons in the south of Italy, he has scored an incredible 104 goals in 138 appearances.
The European seasons have only just ended, but with players already being snapped up, it appears as though Cavani could be the best player still on the market for clubs looking for a source of goals.
If you want a guarantee of goals, whom else are you going to sign?
According to the BBC, Radamel Falcao appears to have sacrificed ambition for a lucrative contract. He is on the brink of signing for the small (average crowd: 5,295 last season) but very rich AS Monaco.
Meanwhile, Robert Lewandowski's agent told The Guardian that his client was destined to remain in Germany with Bayern Munich.
That leaves Cavani still available, but clubs need to be quick. He is under contract at Napoli until 2017 and has a buy-out clause of €63 million.
He is worth that.
If he can come from South America and score so prolifically against Italian defences, then he can thrive anywhere in Europe.
Having turned 26 in February, he is at his peak and should remain there for at least five more years.
So far in his career, aside from all those goals, he has only won the Torneo Apertura in Uruguay in 2006-07 and the Coppa Italia in 2012. It will be difficult to add to that at Napoli, so he will likely be on the move this summer.
His manager, Walter Mazzarri has now left Napoli for Inter Milan, and Cavani is likely to follow him out the door.
Cavani told David Anderson of The Daily Mirror:
As a child, I dreamed of playing for Real Madrid or Barcelona, but now I am proud to be at Napoli.
On my future, I cannot say anything, because I still do not know anything. I do not get distracted at all when I hear about offers and interest from other teams, I am used to it now.
Honestly, I still have a contract and I just think about Napoli.
If any of these clubs can get Cavani’s signature on a contract this summer, they will be virtually guaranteeing themselves success next season.
They should take the plunge and pay that buy-out clause.