There was no magnum champagne or commemorative shirt in sight, nor the choreographed firework display which welcomed Neymar to the French capital, when Edinson Cavani was celebrated as Paris Saint-Germain’s all-time top goalscorer before kick-off against Rennes. Instead of the extravagance you’d often associate with showpieces by the world’s richest club, the forward received a round of applause, a quick video roll of his best strikes from an impressive tally of 157 goals and, to the amusement of social media, a miniature figurine of himself – a model fit for a model professional.
To some it may seem like an understated presentation for such an impressive feat, but for a player like the 30-year-old, it couldn’t have been more akin to a character who has always put the team first. Those in attendance of PSG’s 8-0 demolition of Dijon two weeks earlier thought they were going to witness history when PSG won a penalty in the 83rd minute, but Cavani – having earlier levelled Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s record with a composed finish – stepped aside and let Neymar score his fourth.
- Learn more about the device that helps you play like a professional
- Play Like…Thomas Muller
- Get fit with PlayerTek
This isn’t an isolated gesture of humility, the striker did play out wide for three years to accommodate Ibrahimovic, and then waited a further season before asking for a new contract and pay rise while team-mates have been far greedier and frequent which such requests. The 49 goals in 50 games last campaign was a vindication of sorts, and having already found the back of the net with 27 goals in 31 appearances this term, you begin to wonder if it would have taken Cavani sooner to write himself into the Les Parisiens record books had he been more individualistic.
The aforementioned numbers speak for themselves, and with a ratio of 0.87 goals a game this season, you have to wonder what’s the secret to Cavani’s assurance in the box. Asked in a recent interview, the man himself revealed the tranquility found in fishing was the key to his composure and eye for goal.
While you may be inspired to dig out your old fishing rod and tackle, the answer truly lies in the Uruguayan’s clever movement. Injury and suspension has prevented arguably the strongest attack in Europe from combining of late, but with Cavani acting as a traditional No.9 and the incisive Kylian Mbappé and Neymar playing just off him in a 4-3-3 formation, there’s no shortage of scoring opportunities.
Spearheading the most expensive triumvirate football has ever seen, Cavani is the furthest man forward in attack and the target for crosses into the box. It’s the centre forward’s job to hold up the ball, bring his team-mates into play and use his clever movement to not only fashion chances for himself, but to create space for others to exploit. Your heat map should show an array of activity in the final third of the pitch, but as the reference point of a front three, you’ll need to act primarily in the centre.
If there was ever a defining action summarising Cavani’s willingness to sacrifice personal recognition for the values of the team, it can be found the day after Paris Saint-Germain’s humbling 6-1 Champions League defeat to Barcelona in the dressing room of the Camp des Loges. Alongside words adorned on the walls such as ‘ambition’ and ‘win’, the striker had arrived early to write ‘humilité’ in tape.
It’s a small gesture, but one that can galvanise a team. Leading off the pitch, Cavani sets an example on it with a willingness to work without the ball, make himself available at every opportunity and hassle the opposition’s defence.
If you’re going to work like the striker, you’ll need to be in good shape. PlayerTek is the device that not only measures how far you run, but offers insights to improve performance and recovery.
It may not go down as one of Cavani’s finest strikes in a Paris-Saint Germain shirt – his solo effort against Bastia in 2013 is well worth a trawl for on Youtube – but you get the feeling his record-breaking goal against Montpellier was his favourite judging by the celebrations that followed a simple poke home.
Throwing his shirt into the crowd, even a team player like the Uruguayan couldn’t resist revelling in the moment of such an impressive feat. On face value, it looks like slack marking from one of the more resolute defences in Ligue 1, but the striker’s movement during the build-up play is exactly why his pace shouldn’t be underestimated.
A quick shimmy followed by a sudden sprint, and the forward was able to ghost into the box and score. Unai Emery’s 4-3-3 formation is devastating on the counter, and with Neymar and Mbappé for company, Cavani can’t afford to be lacklustre if he’s going to be on the receiving end of a cross. That burst of pace is the 30-year-old’s secret weapon and one he relies on to get in front of his marker, so make sure you’re checking your top speeds after every game with PlayerTek.