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THE VERDICT | Is Edinson Cavani world-class?

As soon as you read the title to this piece, you fell into one of three camps.

The first being: “well, he’s scored so many goals this season including in the Champions League while plenty of teams would want him if he wanted to leave, so he has to be world class.”

The second is: “well, he misses so many good chances in games and can be so wasteful, he only scores so many because he’s in a team that creates so many chances, so he cannot be world class.”

Or the third: “He plays in a farmer’s league but he’s boss on FIFA.

The strange thing is, none of these are totally incorrect statements, except the part about Ligue 1 being a farmer’s league. The French top flight is home to both the highest scoring team in Europe and the side that dismantled Barcelona in the first leg of their round-of-16 Champions’ League tie.

Starting with that first crowd, Cavani is scoring an astonishing amount of goals this season. At his current rate, he has scored more than even Zlatan Ibrahimovic did in any of his seasons in France, which should highlight how monumentally successful he has been in front of goal.

25 goals in 23 league games is pretty impressive, averaging a goal every 87 minutes but then add in the fact he’s scored two in two in the Coupe de la Ligue, making his domestic total pretty startling.

Then factor in that he has scored seven in seven in the premier European competition, having failed to only score in one game and that’s a pretty outstanding total. Only Lionel Messi has scored more, with two hat-tricks against Celtic and Manchester City, but the Uruguayan still has plenty left to catch up to one of the greatest of all time.

His 58% shot accuracy in the league is just about equal to anyone in the top five European leagues that are leading the scoring charts, yet he is seven goals ahead of his nearest challengers Luis Suarez and Edin Dzeko. That is an impressive feat that should not be so easily dismissed.

However, there is also a just argument made by those that criticise the amount of fantastic opportunities he does waste. When you watch Cavani on a regular basis, you are accepting that he is likely to miss two or three excellent chances before sticking one away or vice-versa.

Some might think that people are exaggerating the attempts he is missing but believe us, they are pretty astonishing. If you were to re-watch two particular efforts that he missed against Arsenal in the home leg of the Champions’ League, you have an idea of just how awful the situation is because he wastes openings like that on a weekly basis.

It makes his frankly impressive goal-tally look a little shoddy, in a bizarre way. The fact is that if he was even bit more lethal, he could be on a ridiculous number of goals now and there would be no question over his quality.

This astounding fact from WhoScored back in early January highlights just how much the 30-year-old has feet in both ponds. He has scored (17) and missed (18) the most clear-cut chances in Europe’s top five leagues this season.

I know, that is pretty special in so many ways.

What cannot be denied is that his movement off the ball, his ability to be in the right spot is second to none. He pulls off defenders with ease, drifting into areas to find a pocket of space and is a midfielder’s dream because if you have even merely an adequate passing ability, then he will be where you want him to be.

In the last few games, where Cavani has improved his finishing rate, he looks unstoppable. His first-time finishes against Bordeaux were exquisite and becoming of a top goalscorer, while his effort against Barcelona showed that he is really on-song at this moment in time.

In the end, there will always be people on either side of this line. His play and scoring record is as good as anyone currently, having hit his highest level of performance in a PSG shirt so far. Yet the misses and the frustration keep people back from accepting that he is a top class forward, especially when those errors crop up in big games.

He has shown so many flashes of wonder that you just want to believe that he is indeed world class, yet there are times when you begin to question your sanity. When push comes to shove, goalscorers that get in the right positions and get enough goals deserve the plaudits and Cavani should have his name among the best.

N.S.

 

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