Edinson Cavani was once one of Europe’s most fearsome strikers, coveted the world over thanks to his domination of Serie A for Napoli. He had it all: a long, lanky frame to nod in goals with his forehead, a loping stride that sped him around the pitch and onto through balls much quicker than you’d expect from a man of his size, a silky touch and fleet feet to halt and stunt his way past defenders before kicking the ball into the top corner of the net from any angle, and most importantly: the tenacity and confidence to know, wherever the ball was, he would get to it and would score.
Since leaving Italy and joining PSG, Cavani has looked a shell of his former self. Forced to play second fiddle to Zlatan Ibrahimović, often on the wing where there are fewer sure goals, he has lost every bit of the confidence and ferocity that made him so good.
Just look at that video up there. Sent clear through on goal by Ángel Di María, what should have been a simple one- or two-touch control and finish instead turned into a five second play about a man having a panic attack.
As he runs towards the ball, you can almost feel him willing himself into the player he used to be.
Okay, okay, okay Edi, you’ve got a perfect chance here and you’re not going to mess this one up, he probably thought to himself.
That first touch, squirreling the ball a little behind him, shattered the calm. EEEP! Oh no, you’ve done it again, Edi! In front of everyone, too! What’s Ibra gonna say in the locker room? Wait—no time for that, now the keeper’s running at you, you don’t have enough time, quick! Do something! Just, uh, kinda jab it with your foot, hurry!
And so he sent a weak chip past Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas that bounced impotently toward the end line. Raphaël Varane caught up to it and cleared it away easily. All Cavani could do was hunch over, hands on his knees, surely haunted with the knowledge that no one thought he’d make good on the opportunity—likely not even himself.
It really is bizarre when an otherwise world-class striker is shorn of all confidence and descends to this sorry state. The easier the chance, the more sure you are of their impending failure. For so long, post-Liverpool Fernando Torres stood as the archetype of this player. Now an aging rotation player outside of the spotlight, it’s time we let Torres fade quietly into obsolescence. For better or worse, we have a newer, younger version of him, and he plays in Paris.