The Uruguayan has arrived on a free transfer after leaving PSG last season. However, this is not an arrival that infuses Man Utd fans with a sense of relief and confidence in the club’s transfer strategy, especially after the Jadon Sancho debacle.
WHY IS THIS NOT A GOOD SIGN?
By January of this year, it had become clear that Cavani would be leaving PSG; an injury-ridden season with a steep decline in performances convinced Les Parisiens that their marriage with the 33-year-old had run its course.
For most part, it felt only a matter of time before Cavani joined Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid, but they were put off by his wage demands and a staggering US$12.9m agent’s fee. Then a series of miscommunications and ever-increasing wage demands saw Cavani’s move to SL Benfica collapse over the summer.
Cavani had been a free agent since July. If this was a transfer United really wanted to pursue, they could have and would have gone in for him long ago. The fact that they went in for him this late, with no prior rumours of their interest, reeks of desperation – a last-ditch attempt to reel in a big-name signing having been unable to do so throughout the summer.
Cavani has signed a US$245k-a-week contract that runs until June 2021. United have the option to extend it to a further year if the move pans out well. Cavani will also get US$4.7m as signing-on bonus and further US$2.4m in performance-based add-ons. Reportedly, the agent’s fee will also be less than the US$12.9m amount reported earlier.
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Cavani’s injury woes are the biggest concern for United. In his last two seasons for PSG, Cavani missed 38 matches through injury, featuring in only 52% of PSG’s matches in all competitions. He had only missed six matches in five years before 2018.
Despite dealing with a hamstring issue in the 2018-19 season, Cavani made 33 appearances for PSG, scoring 25 goals and assisting 9 times: a decent return in an injury-hit season. His form, however, took a nosedive along with his fitness for the next season, as he made only 22 appearances, scoring seven times and assisting twice. He was out with a hip injury earlier last season and sustained a groin strain later. When he wasn’t ruled out with injury, he lacked match fitness. When he had match fitness, he was out of favour with coach Thomas Tuchel, who had already brought in Argentine Mauro Icardi as a long-term replacement for Cavani. After failing to secure a move away from Paris in January, the club didn’t even extend his contract temporarily to account for the COVID-19 lockdown that pushed the Champions League matches into August.
Unlike most of the players, one could say Cavani has actually had a proper pre-season to recuperate from his injuries, though he hasn’t featured in matches at all. By all accounts, he’d be raring to go again, but his injury sheet from last two seasons does make me worry, given how rarely he had fitness issues before that.
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WHAT HE BRINGS
Consternations aside, Edinson Cavani is easily one of the finest strikers of the last decade. He is PSG’s all-time top goal scorer with 200 goals in 301 matches. His overall tally with his time at Palermo, Napoli and PSG racks up to 341 goals in 556 appearances. He’s also scored 50 goals in 116 appearances for Uruguay’s men’s national team, behind only to a certain Luis Suárez (59).
Regardless to say, a prime Cavani with his knack for one-touch finishes and tremendous work ethic would improve any team in the world. He bolsters United’s options as an out-and-out striker, who will bang in goals left, right and center. His arrival also means Odion Ighalo’s loan will almost certainly not be extended beyond January 2021. He’ll also provide manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær with an option to play two up front in formation, with a strike partner in Martial or Rashford who could drift wide, as is their wont, while Cavani would stay front and center.
Is Cavani a brilliant signing at this point in time? No. Is he a big-name signing? Yes. There are a lot of factors here that need to go absolutely in United’s favour for this deal to work out. For right now, we can expect him to start for Manchester United after the international break, as Anthony Martial’s set to serve his three-match ban for his red card against Spurs on Sunday. I believe an in-form Cavani would make an excellent upgrade over Martial, who when not scoring is at best, pedestrian, but his recent form and injury woes do give me many reasons for concern. However, as a Man United fan, I’d love to be proved wrong.