Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

John O'Donnell On May - 14 - 2013

Player Focus: Curtain Call for Edinson Cavani?

For three seasons, Napoli fans have witnessed the emergence of one of football’s potentially legend strikers. Playing for a club defined by its owner’s outrageous personality and cult-like dedication to the Maradona days, Edinson Cavani has been a name but not THE NAME in Italian and world soccer. He has, however, been the subject of rampant transfer speculation for many years and this past season may have been the last Napoli can hold off the money being thrown at them. If Sunday was his final home game, then it epitomized what he has meant to this club this season, a season of incredible achievement returning the Partenopei to European competition, UEFA Champions League, next season.

On Sunday, Napoli faced a Siena side that going into the day was on the cusp of relegation and by the end of the game knew that it had already been condemned to Serie B. Napoli had locked itself second place and thus rotated some of its starting XI. For example, starting next to Cavani at forward was Emanuele Calaio, who is a career “promotion specialist” but is not considered a definitive Serie A player. With only one side having anything potentially to play for in this result, the game played out as you would expect – sluggish, sloppy, and the home team taking it a little easy despite a number of early chances to take the lead. Cavani was the only player who truly had a milestone to achieve, as he was gunning for his 28th goal on the season. In the 11th minute, the forward had a decent chance off a corner, but his header hit the upper crossbar and went wide. In the 16th minute, he had an even better chance as he was played onto goal by a well-placed pass but his attempt to beat the Siena keeper went wide and deflected off the post again. When Siena scored in the 36th minute, it looked like the home crowd would see the final game as the season with their beloved club on the wrong side of a losing scoreline.

But it was Cavani that brought life back into his side. Initially it seemed like his goal scored at the beginning of the second half would be the one to spark Napoli, but it was correctly ruled offside. Instead the Napoli faithful would have to wait until the 74th minute for a Cavani breakthrough. Off a free kick, Omar El Kaddouri’s shot hit off the post (sensing a theme?) and rebounded in front of the goal. Cavani had been camped by the near post and tracked the progress of the shot. Watching the replay, you can see his brain working and projecting the path of attack, getting a quick first step to beat the Siena defenders to the ball. The result was the game-tying goal and, in second half stoppage time, Marek Hamsik would send the home crowd home happy with the game winner.

With clubs like Manchester City, Arsenal and PSG rich with cash and looking for bigger trophies (or, for City and the Gunners, any trophy), it will be hard for Napoli to hold on to Cavani when his price and profile probably cannot be any higher. The Blues have survived the loss of world-class players before, but players like Cavani are hard to come by and the money gained from his possible sale would still make it hard to replace him. If this truly was his last game at Stadio San Paolo, the people of Naples were treated to a vintage Cavani match that, despite the lack of importance over the outcome, is one to be remembered as classic Cavani.

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