Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani: Europe's Top Strike Duo in the Making?
Paris Saint-Germain are set to seal the signing of Napoli’s Edinson Cavani for a French record 64 million Euros later on Tuesday.
However, questions are already being asked of the Uruguayan’s ability to play alongside partner-to-be Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Swedish international, author of 30 goals and seven assists in just 34 league matches, has been the subject of intense speculation regarding his future over the past week. The latest on the 31-year-old’s future is that it lies away from Paris according to Napoli President Aurelio de Laurentiis.
However according to Le Parisien, PSG President Nasser Al-Khelaifi will address that issue during Cavani’s unveiling and emphatically reiterate that Ibrahimovic will stay in the French capital (Le Parisien in French).
The talismanic striker is expected to return to training on Thursday after an extended holiday period; Cavani will not join up with the squad until the end of the month.
Will Ibrahimovic stay?
Right now it is difficult to tell how true his reported unhappiness in Paris is. But in a similar case PSG have already been assured of the future of star defender Thiago Silva, who had been linked with a move to Barcelona, by his agent.
So far, despite numerous protestations from Mino Raiola, Ibrahimovic’s outspoken agent, the French champions do not have a concrete guarantee from the Swede that he intends to honour his contract.
He did state that he intended to stay at the club for the coming season at the end of the last campaign, but PSG have since moved in on Cavani, changing the scenario somewhat.
Assuming he does, it is a match made in heaven, at least on paper.
PSG have needed a predator and ruthlessly clinical striker to share the burden with Ibrahimovic since it became obvious last season that the responsibility was too much for even Ibra to handle on his own.
The prolific striker coped admirably with his 30 league goals and further strikes in Europe and the domestic cups. But repeating that feat again in his second season would have been a tall order.
Signing Cavani allows Ibra to become more creative, something we saw regularly in Europe but rarely in Ligue 1 as the requirement that he was prolific instead of productive was more urgent.
Arguably few clubs in Europe, except for possibly Barcelona and Bayern Munich, has a front two that can combine sheer goal scoring prowess with the creativity that Cavani and Ibrahimovic boast collectively.
Of course, Cavani is not a creator in the mould of Ibrahimovic. He is also not as capable as a Falcao, for instance, of being able to take a match by the scruff of the neck and single-handedly lead a team to victory.
What he can do though is finish any chances put in front of him.
‘El Matador’ has plundered 78 goals in Serie A since 2010, a figure impossible for the capital club to ignore as they struggled to find a balanced front pairing under Carlo Ancelotti last season.
Cavani and Ibrahimovic will be aided by the dual wide threats of Ezequiel Lavezzi, a former teammate at Napoli, and Lucas Moura, the Brazilian sensation who has yet to hit the heights with PSG yet despite displaying incredible raw ability.
Because of that support act, Laurent Blanc’s side won’t even be hindered by Cavani and Ibrahimovic’s relative lack of pace. Aerially, PSG also have a phenomenal presence from set pieces in the pair now, aided by the side’s dominant defenders.
In theory, this move should be exactly what Ibrahimovic wanted to happen in order to boost his chances of winning the Champions League with PSG.
Without a prolific partner to play alongside, the Swede’s chances of winning Europe’s top continental competition are significantly lower than they were with just him leading the line.
But therein lies the problem: Will Ibrahimovic accept sharing the limelight with another goal scorer, even if it is for the greater good of the team?
There has been plenty of debate on that topic and there will continue to be until the duo play together and the transfer window closes with both still at the club.
That is still six weeks away.
Ibrahimovic’s ability, or inability, to accept Cavani’s arrival will define whether or not we potentially have Europe’s top strike pairing on our hands.
Our first answer to that question will come on Thursday when last season’s player of the year returns to training with his teammates under the watchful eye of ‘Le President’ and the French press.
The Swede will be under intense scrutiny because of the hysteria that has followed him around for his whole career; and on the other hand Cavani will be under less despite his big-money arrival.
Should Ibrahimovic follow Silva’s example and declare himself happy to stay at PSG, then Blanc has potentially the most potent strike pairing in Europe at his disposal.
But until he does, this debate will rumble on there remains a chance that we might never actually get a real answer to this question.
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