The uncertain dilemma of Edinson Cavani’s future with PSG

Edinson Cavani of Paris Saint-Germain during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Paris St Germain and SSC Napoli at the Parc des Princes on October 24, 2018 in Paris, France(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
Edinson Cavani of Paris Saint-Germain during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Paris St Germain and SSC Napoli at the Parc des Princes on October 24, 2018 in Paris, France(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images) /

With Edinson Cavani’s contract up next summer 2020, PSG find themselves in a predicament surrounding his future with the club.

When Edinson Cavani was presented at the Parc de Princes in July of 2013, there was great anticipation among PSG fans over his arrival and what he could bring to the club.

Cavani was just coming off of a stellar campaign for Napoli where he scored 38 goals in all competitions during the 2012/2013 season. At the time, the Uruguayan was a rising star in world football with many top clubs interested in acquiring his talent. He had the finishing ability and prowess of a versatile forward that could play in a multitude of different attacking systems.

In the end, PSG signed Cavani for a then club transfer record of €64 million and neither side have looked back; it was a seemingly perfect fit.

In six seasons with the Parisian’s, Cavani has instilled himself as a club legend and a fan favorite amongst the supporters. The 32-year-old’s legacy is perfectly exemplified with the lavish amount of club records that he currently holds, including the most goals in all competitions with 193 and the most goals in Ligue 1 with 134. Time and time again, he has delivered in the biggest fixtures for the club such as with his five Champions League knockout stage goals and 12 goals in domestic finals. From a goal-scoring perspective, Cavani has cemented his status as the best to ever play for PSG.

More importantly for PSG, he has been one of the cornerstone players that has been central to the team’s domestic domination; he has won 17 trophies with the club. And as it pertains to his professionalism within the team, it has been a trait of his that has garnered the utmost respect from fans. Whether it was playing out of position as a winger in his first couple of seasons or adjusting his play style to complement Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, Cavani has always sought out to put the team first.

Club officials nor fans could have ever foreseen the grand influence that he has had with PSG. One could go on and on praising Cavani for his immense contributions for the club both on and off the pitch.

But as the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end.

Cavani is in the midst of a dilemma with PSG regarding his future; he is one of six players whose contract runs out next summer. There have been no significant rumors regarding a potential departure this summer so all signs (for now) point to him returning for another season but nothing further in regards to a contract extension. Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan have been one team that have shown preliminary interest in a potential transfer move, but no serious talks have taken place.

Any contract extension proposal from PSG would be welcomed for Cavani considering external factors like wages should not be a problem. He is projected to make a gross salary of €354 thousand a week this season per Capology but with his age, accepting a lower salary will not hinder contract talks.

So, unless Cavani and club officials come to an agreement over the next year on a contract extension, the Uruguayan will leave the club next summer as a free agent. PSG will have to soon answer the inevitable: Is Cavani in PSG’s future plans?

First, one would have to examine the value that he brings to the team and how he would be utilized as he gets older. As alluded to before, Cavani is a world-class forward that has been efficient enough to score 20+ goals in all of his seasons thus far with PSG. Even in his 30s, he still has the ability to be lethal in the box and frustrate defenses with his off-ball movement.

But there is more to his play style that sets him apart from other elite strikers in Europe.

For example over the past two seasons, Cavani was able to unselfishly take a step back and play at times as a deep-lying playmaking forward in order to co-exist with Mbappe and Neymar on the pitch. It was difficult in some instances when the trio played together, but the 32-year-old ensured that he would offer more creativity in the final third. Cavani’s key passes per 90 almost doubled from 0.75 in the 2016/2017 season to a fair 1.32 in the following campaign when both Neymar and Mbappe arrived — a fair jump considering that he has never been known to be an attacking playmaker throughout his career. He has also recorded 20 assists in his past two seasons, which is more than what he totaled in his first four seasons with PSG (18).

Of course, who could forget about his defensive contributions. There are not many strikers in Europe today that are willing to drop back and defend on a game-by-game basis — a trait that has been historically synonymous with Uruguayan football. His relentless tenacity to strive to win the ball back is a characteristic of his that is thoroughly admired within PSG. His 0.6 tackles per 90 rate last season in Ligue 1 play ranked among the best in Europe for strikers.

From both a defensive and unselfish playmaking perspective, he is irreplaceable for PSG. When looking at it from a goal-scoring standpoint, there is a case to justify why PSG may move on from Cavani, whether it may be in the current transfer window or next summer. There is no denying that he is at the tail end of his career as it pertains to his prime days where injuries and a gradual decline in performance will begin to impact his career.

On a broader scale, there may be one player who is waiting in the wings ready to take over the striker position: Kylian Mbappe. Concluding the yearly Ligue 1 award ceremony in May, Mbappe made some cryptic comments regarding his future with the club: “It’s maybe time to take more responsibility, whether that’s at PSG or elsewhere.” The comments fueled speculation about a potential departure from PSG but as reported by ESPN’s Julien Laurens and Jonathan Johnson, Mbappe’s statements were made not on a desire to leave the club but rather to make his intentions clear about soon being the team’s main centre-forward — a move that could assure that Cavani may not be part of PSG’s future plans.

Nonetheless, all options are on the table for PSG under new sporting director Leonardo as they will explore all possible outcomes to Cavani’s future. Now of course, there could be an end to any pending speculation if PSG’s board offer Cavani a new one or two-year contract renewal to stay on. If they are confident enough in Cavani that he can still perform at a world-class level throughout an entirety of a campaign, then he will continue to keep his starting centre-forward role — a move that could jeopardize Mbappe’s future if he is all in on taking over the position. But if he begins to show sheer decline in his play, the Uruguayan can take a step back and accept a rotational role.

The other scenario comes with Cavani leaving as a free agent next summer, which opens the door for Mbappe to feature as the team’s main centre-forward. But if PSG decide against this scenario and instead begin a search for an immediate replacement for Cavani, the board will have plenty of options available if they will be willing to spend for the likes of Mauro Icardi, Robert Lewandowski and Timo Werner. Considering that many forwards like Radamel Falcao have revived their careers in France and the fact that PSG have an array of playmakers, any top striker that the club sign should not have a difficult time adjusting to Ligue 1.

Even after evaluating all options, Leonardo will still put the best interests of PSG at the forefront of their transfer goals. If they feel that it is best to sell Cavani this summer, then the board will be transparent with the player and facilitate a move out — a decision looming on the fact that any transfer would require the club to directly negotiate with any interested team since release clauses are not allowed in Ligue 1. But with how well Cavani is respected within the board, a contract extension may soon be on the horizon, especially with the questionable futures of both Neymar and Mbappe.

For now, all of the focus for Cavani and the rest of the PSG squad is on striving to keep a stronghold on their French football domination and looking to advance deeper in the Champions League. With a strong season, Cavani should end up earning himself a contract extension and further prolonging his career with a team that he has become an illustrious talent. If no contract is offered, then the upcoming campaign will be a special farewell tour for his PSG run and possibly his career as he hinted at earlier this year.

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Cavani’s prime years are indeed soon coming to an end but even at his age, the club icon still has plenty to prove regardless of where his future may lie.