Striker Edinson Cavani continues to prove his worth to PSG
LYON: At his current scoring rate, Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani could reach 50 goals by the end of the season.
Not bad for a player many PSG fans wanted to get rid of last summer, expressing concerns that he was not good enough to carry the attack after Zlatan Ibrahimovic left to join Manchester United.
How wrong they were.
The Uruguay striker's most recent two goals helped PSG win the League Cup final in a 4-1 win against Monaco on Saturday, and took his season's tally to a career best 40.
His previous high was 38, set four years ago in his final season with Italian club Napoli before he joined PSG for a French record 64 million euros ($68 million).
With eight league games and potentially three French Cup matches left — should PSG reach the final — Cavani has a maximum of 11 matches left to score 10 times. It is within his reach considering he has averaged almost a goal a game this season — netting a league-leading 27 in 28 games.
His previous best league tally was 29, also during his final season in Italy.
"Cavani scores in nearly every game," PSG midfielder Javier Pastore said. "The team also plays for him, but he's got a great presence."
While Ibrahimovic's whopping tally of 38 league goals for PSG last season may be just out of reach, Cavani has undoubtedly proved his worth this season. Not just for his goals, but because of his unselfish attitude on the pitch — something Ibrahimovic was not renowned for.
When Ibrahimovic was at PSG, everything revolved around him.
This reduced Cavani to a secondary role to accommodate Ibrahimovic, often meaning that Cavani was played out of position wide on the right. Despite spending three seasons in Ibrahimovic's shadow, Cavani never complained — making it seem very harsh when fans jeered him.
Although Cavani did sometimes miss easy chances — a glitch he has yet to iron out of his game — his work ethic was too often overlooked by fans and he was unfairly treated at times.
Although PSG's club captain is center half Thiago Silva, the 30-year-old Cavani has arguably now emerged as the team's true leader.
"When he's wearing the PSG shirt he's very professional and very committed. The same when he plays for the national team," PSG coach Unai Emery said. "He's hungry to work, hungry to score, hungry to play better."
In fact, Cavani's goals have tended to carry the team. Brazilian winger Lucas, with 14 goals, is the only other player to have reached double figures.
Since the arrival of Germany winger Julian Draxler during the January transfer window, Cavani's form has got even better. He has quickly developed a good understanding with Draxler and Angel Di Maria, PSG's other winger.
It was this Cavani-Draxler-Di Maria trio that caused so much damage in a 4-0 home win against Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 match in mid-February. Inexplicably, Emery dropped Di Maria for the return leg, which PSG lost 6-1.
Against Monaco, the trio was again devastating, with Draxler and Di Maria setting up each other for goals and the fleet-footed Di Maria picking out Cavani with a brilliant gliding pass for his second goal.
PSG's attack looks highly promising for next season — which could also be Cavani's last for PSG, since he will be out of contact in June 2018.
Rather than wishing he leaves, the same PSG fans who doubted Cavani at the start of the season must now be hoping he signs a new deal.