His performances in Italy for Napoli have made him on of Europe's most feared marksmen, just what Chelsea need if Didier Drogba gets his wish to leave on January...
You know you have won an Italian’s affections when they bake you a cake - and when it is a 20kg mountain of sweetness then you must be very special.
Edinson Cavani was the recipient of such a giant handmade heart-shaped confectionery from adoring Napoli fans following the striker’s hat-trick in the drama-filled 3-1 win over AC Milan in September. Neapolitans know a thing or two about football and not since the days when Diego Maradona was strutting around the San Paolo stadium have they taken a player to their hearts in the manner of the lanky Uruguayan.
A banner that appears at every home game proclaims “Sainthood Now” below an image of the striker draped in robes with a halo around his cherub features. It is fitting because Cavani is no Maradona away from the pitch, preferring to live the simple, homely life and would no doubt attend church every Sunday if he was not otherwise engaged in answering Partenopei prayers by scoring a hatful of goals.
Last season he topped Serie A goalscoring charts on 25 goals, which is a club record for a single league season, and Cavani has formed a Holy Trinity with Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik to carry a city’s title hopes on his slender shoulders. El Matador has scored half of the team’s goals despite failing to find the net in February, and was their top scorer in Europe last season with seven goals. The club’s movie mogul owner Aurelio De Laurentiis could not have scripted it better having jumped at his Palermo counterpart Maurizio Zamperini’s pre-season offer to take a player who had scored 13 goals for the Sicilian club in the previous campaign off his hands.
Not since the days when Diego Maradona was strutting around the San Paolo stadium have they taken a player to their hearts in the manner of the lanky Uruguayan.
An initial 5million Euro loan deal was quickly brokered which will rose to something in the region of 17m in the summer which no doubt will leave the combustible Zamperini red-faced with shame. Cavani had played his part in Uruguay reaching the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup but had not garlanded the same headlines as team-mates Diego Forlan and Luis Sanchez and few had expected such an impact at Napoli. However, Cavani has not only solved the Azzurri’s goalscoring problems but coach Walter Mazzarri discovered a player who has demonstrated a willingness to work tirelessly for the team with personal glory a consequence of his unselfish attitude.
He may be bashful and somewhat coy off the pitch but on it he lives up to his fearless nickname and although carrying little or no bulk within his six-foot frame he possess that willowy elasticity that enables him to ride challenges and the fleet-footed grace to escape into space after evading a marker. His temperament has never been under discussion even within the shirt-pulling confines of the Italian penalty area where he has received his fair share of harsh treatment - and once again his outlook is always that of the team before self.
“You cannot help the team win if you get frustrated with close marking,” he revealed. “My job is focused on getting the better of the opposition to either score or set-up one of my team-mates.” The dream player then for any coach and the plaudits have come thick and fast from Mazzarri who compared his own star’s overall influence to that of Zlatan Ibrahimovic at AC Milan last season.
“Edinson is indispensable for us as the Swede is for Milan,” he swooned. “Both teams never gave up and our Matador is the finisher this club has been missing.” Napoli are now within three points of league leaders Milan - but should they fail to capture the title, they will find it hard to resist offers from other clubs for their scintillating South American.
Click here for more Football and Sports stories
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook