Edinson Cavani vs. Radamel Falcao: Who Is the Better Player?

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor ISeptember 19, 2013

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Edinson Cavani and Radamel Falcao come head-to-head in Ligue 1 for the first time this weekend, with PSG hosting Monaco on Sunday in a match of France's big-spenders.

Reigning champions PSG added Uruguayan Cavani to their already illustrious ranks this summer for an incredible €64 million, per Sports Illustrated. Falcao, meanwhile, moved from Atletico Madrid to Monaco for an equally impressive sum, tipping the scales slightly lower at €60 million per ESPN.

They have been two of the leading strikers in Europe for some time now, with both scoring 20 league goals regularly in recent years. Which, though, is the better player?

As shown in the chart above, there are many similarities between the two South American players. They are of a similar age, play in the same division and have similar builds—even if Cavani has a height advantage of seven centimetres.

Most importantly, though, they are both prodigious goalscorers and, given that they both hail from South America and emerged at similar times onto the European stage, it is only natural that they should be compared—rightly or wrongly.

While, personally, I am not a fan of putting a number or grade to different attributes in a player's game, we can turn to the famously rigourous Football Manager database for a review of the two players' qualities in some of the key attributes required to be a centre-forward.

The ratings back up what is clear from watching the two players on a regular basis—there is very little between them in terms of basic abilities.

Last season's statistics also back up the incredible similarities in their games. Per Whoscored, both players averaged 0.9 key passes in each league game, Cavani made 1.1 dribbles each game to Falcao's 1, while the Colombian completed two percent more of his passes with a 79.9 percent success rate.

Both are terrific in and around the penalty area, while also excellent at holding up the ball and linking play. While it easy to say that either is better in a certain department of the game, there is very little variation between them statistically.

As the above table shows, even in goal and assist contributions over the past five seasons there is very little to separate the duo. Where Falcao edges it in goals, Cavani edges in assists.

Given the quantity of league games that the samples are drawn from, the results are astoundingly comparable and any difference between the pair falls well within an acceptable margin to allow for anomalies.

The one major difference between the pair is that Cavani is undoubtedly more versatile. He is a bit quicker than the Colombian and the better dribbler of the two, meaning he has played on the right wing for both club and country in the past.

It is far from his preferred position, but given that he has had to compete with both Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez for a place up front for his country, his versatility has been a necessity.

Falcao, though, has a clear advantage in terms of trophies, having set new goalscoring records en route to two Europa League triumphs. In total, he has scored 31 goals in 33 appearances since the tournament's 2009 inception.

Both will go down as two of the finest goalscorers of their generation and supporters in France will have the pleasure of witnessing their talents in the coming years. Both, though, require a standout showing in either the Champions League or the World Cup to really define their careers.

It is those two tournaments that crown the truly great players and neither Falcao nor Cavani have yet had defining moments in those events.

That moment could well come in Brazil next summer, where both are likely to be present with their countries. More likely, though, they will come to the fore in the Champions League, with both PSG and Monaco set to challenge consistently in the latter stages over the coming years.

Then, maybe, we will finally be closer to knowing who will go down in history as the finer player. For now, though, they should be appreciated for the sensational individual talents that they are.

This weekend, we will have the chance to witness the pair in direct combat once more and both will be seen as crucial players to their side's hopes of a win. Three points either way will be a considerable early boost in the race for the Ligue 1 title.