Few strikers in world football could carry out the role Edinson Cavani does so selflessly at PSG.
He’s part target-man, part older brother whose job it is to ensure Neymar feels fully indulged at all times, even if that means passing up a penalty to become PSG’s record goalscorer from time to time.
With 119 goals and counting in five-and-a-bit seasons at the Parc de Princes, Cavani’s ability to stick the ball in the oignon bag is beyond question.
But it wasn’t always like this for football’s greatest ego masseur.
In 2007 the cream of South America met to contest the South American Under-20 Championships in Paraguay.
As per most South American youth tournaments, scouts heading to Paraguay had their eyes firmly fixed on the traditional giants of Argentina and Brazil.
Argentina’s squad boasted a lovely technical playmaker in Ever Banega and a scampering winger in Angel Di Maria, while Alexandre Pato was the talk of a Brazil roster which also included Willian and Lucas Leiva.
Chile also looked strong, bolstered by the Colo-Colo duo of Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez.
Brazil ended up taking the trophy home- powered by the goals of Pato and, as hard as this might be to believe, Lucas- but it was Cavani who left scouts running for the nearest phone.
The 19-year-old scored seven goals in nine games to pick up the golden boot and, if you believe the tabloids, spark a tug-of-war between Juventus and AC Milan.
Three days after the tournament ended Cavani did indeed move to Serie A. However he was unveiled in the pink of Palermo rather than at one of Italian football’s traditional powerhouses.
It took just 15 minutes of Cavani’s Serie A debut for the Uruguayan to find the back of the net against Fiorentina with an ode to Marco van Basten.
He started and scored on his next appearance, this time against Fiorentina, but that would be his last goalscoring contribution of the 2006/07 season.
A promising start meant much was expected of the 20-year-old ahead of his first full campaign in Europe, especially as Palermo had qualified for the UEFA Cup.
But 2007/08 proved to be the worst season of Cavani’s career.
An eight-game barren spell at the start of the season set the tone and by the time he netted against Parma on matchday nine he’d already been relegated to the bench, with Fabrizio Miccoli and Amauri both preferred up front.
Cavani went on runs of five, eight, three, four and six-matches without scoring and finished the season with five Serie A goals to his name, despite making 33 appearances.
Palermo got through three managers as they trundled their way to 11th in the league.
However, that would be the last time Cavani registered single figures in a league campaign.
Twenty-seven goals in his next two seasons earned Cavani a move to Napoli, where he continued to flourish.
From there you know the story.
He’s now a four-time Ligue 1 winner with 45 international goals to his name, golden boots in France and Italy and a trophy cabinet full to the brim.
Proof, if even you needed it, that you should never stop trying to improve.
Isn’t that wholesome?
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