It’s been a week of high-profile transfer speculation following the confirmed move of Mario Goetze to Bayern, Radamel Falcao again linked to Chelsea and Zlatan Ibrahimovic touted to return to Italy.
A mooted deal that could see the latter of the aforementioned trio become possible could see PSG swoop for Napoli’s Edinson Cavani, who Partenopei president Aurelio de Laurentiis slapped an €80 million price tag on in the summer. While that fee was brandished to perturb potential suitors, the Parisians are one of a handful of clubs able to even consider such figures, and WhoScored.com investigates what may be a key factor in their interest in the Uruguayan.
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The obvious reason for PSG to be circling the South American is his goalscoring prowess. With 23 Serie A goals to his name in the current campaign he’s at the front of the line to scoop the league’s golden boot award, having already matched his tally from the previous campaign. The 23-year-old has netted in excess of twenty goals in each of his three seasons with Napoli, with a league tally of 72 goals from 100 appearances for the club.
Since moving from Palermo in the summer of 2010, Cavani has scored a Serie A goal every 117 minutes on average, which is a faster rate than any other player with at least 10 goals over the same time frame. Nevertheless, his conversion rate has been in steady decline since scoring 26 goals in his debut season for the club, with a figure of 20.8% that year dropping to a still highly respectable 17.2% thus far in the current campaign.
It’s clear, however, that any such move would need to benefit the team as a whole if PSG are to fulfil their dream of becoming the champions of Europe, and while any sale of Ibrahimovic may not dent their Ligue 1 hopes as drastically, the departure of a player of that calibre would raise serious questions as to their aspirations on the continent. It seems unlikely that the Uruguayan would be anything other than a replacement if the Swede were to leave, and he would certainly leave big shoes to fill.
However, there may be a number of players at the club who would approve of an indirect swap for the two. Any potential signing of Cavani would take PSG’s South American contingent to seven, all of whom could start next season in Ancelotti’s preferred XI, and the two Latin Americans at the club with the lowest WhoScored rating in Ligue 1 are Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore, and therein we find a link.
Both are players with whom Cavani has worked before, most recently to great affect at Napoli with Lavezzi, but also with Pastore during his time at Palermo, where he first made his name in Serie A. Both are also players that haven’t forged a particularly successful footballing relationship with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, despite the striker possessing exceptional team play at times to lead the team with seven assists and 1.9 key passes per game.
While Lavezzi has most often been deployed alongside Ibrahimovic in a centre forward role (11 times in Ligue 1) his rating from those appearances is a disappointing 6.65. Meanwhile, in five games started from the left in the league that rating jumps to 7.52, with the current 4-2-2-2 formation clearly not suiting the Argentine. Despite the fact that Ibrahimovic has scored a huge 27 league goals this season, only two have come from Lavezzi assists, while the former AC man has set up a goal for Lavezzi just once in the league.
When it comes to Pastore’s link-up with the big man there’s a similar pattern, with just one of the playmaker’s six assists in the league setting up an Ibrahimovic strike, while the latter hasn’t set up the Ibero-American once in Ligue 1. While his own figures suggest that this is not the fault of Ibrahimovic, PSG will clearly be keen to get the most out of the two Argentinians, whose combined transfer fees add up to around €70 million.
Adding Cavani to the mix may just help to do that. Lavezzi set up Cavani for seven goals in their two seasons together at Napoli – with only two greater assist to goalscorer combinations in Serie A in that time – while the Uruguayan returned the favour five times. Meanwhile, in their final season together in Palermo, Pastore assisted three of Cavani’s 13 league goals, and there was clearly an understanding there.
With Pastore’s averages for shots (2.6 to 1.6), key passes (2 to 1.1) and dribbles (1.5 to 0.8) per game having nearly halved from last season and Lavezzi’s respective figures (2 to 1.3 / 2 to 1.1 / 2.5 to 1.4) in similar decline from his final campaign with Napoli, there may be more to PSG’s interest in Cavani than his goalscoring exploits alone.