Edinson Cavani and his amazing legacy at Napoli

A player fulfilling his or her potential is an interesting thing because most people assume that is a straight path: that the player is going to go through certain steps and then he or she is going to become the footballer everybody expected him or her to be at the time people wanted it to happen. It's a fairly innocent mindset and one that doesn't translate to real-life football where there are so many variables.

Edinson Cavani went through a similar situation back in 2010. It's hard to picture the Uruguayan striker as someone who was failing to live up to his potential but that was exactly what was happening during his stint with Palermo, and his signing for Napoli in 2010 represented a massive turn of events for his career and one of the most iconic striker periods in Serie A in the last two decades.

Edinson Cavani celebrating a goal for Napoli

Napoli and Cavani's context

The thing about Edinson Cavani is the fact that he never fulfilled his potential at Italian side Palermo back when he was starting in Europe. He had been signed from Danubio back in 2007 after he had shined with Uruguay's Under-20s national team, and while he had some decent numbers with Palermo, the truth of the matter is that he was never one of the top-class strikers in Serie A at a time.

Meanwhile, Napoli had signed Fabio Quagliarella from Udinese for the 2009/10 season, they were expecting him to be that goalscorer that would push the club upward. However, while Quagliarella scored 11 goals in 36 games across all competitions, it was mostly viewed as a failure and didn't live up to people's expectations, which led to some reshuffling the next summer.

So, by the time the 2010 transfer window took place, there was a situation taking place: Napoli were in need of a new striker and Cavani was in need of a new environment to further develop his abilities. It seemed like an interesting matchup and the Uruguayan was signed that window by Napoli through a loan deal with an obligation to buy of 17 million Euros.

Making this deal a loan was probably, even in hindsight, a very good idea because it guaranteed an exit for the club if Cavani didn't work and also gave them a somewhat cheap deal (at the time) if "El Matador" was a hit in the club. And that last part proved to be way too true.

Cavani at Napoli

The key aspect of Edinson Cavani's success with Napoli was not only the goals he scored but he also raised the floor for Napoli, especially considering that this first season had the club going back to the UEFA Champions League after so many years. This was further emphasized by the fact that a lot of people were expecting Fabio Quagliarella to make that impact, so is quite interesting that they found that in Cavani.

It is also fair to say that playing with the likes of Slovakian midfielder Marek Hamsik and Argentinian attacker Ezequiel Lavezzi was something that helped the Uruguayan striker greatly. Napoli had a much more solid structure than Palermo and Cavani already had a lot more experience in Serie A, so, in a way, this could be viewed as a perfect storm.

In that regard, there is no denying that Cavani was the very definition of an instant hit as he scored a total of 33 goals in 46 games across all competitions. In fact, it's worth considering that 33 goals in that 2010/11 season was also the same amount of goals scored during his entire stint at Palermo (37 goals).

This was something that was further developed in the next two seasons, especially when considering Napoli lost some players, such as Lavezzi to Paris Saint Germain in 2012, which goes to show that this was the moment where Cavani established himself as one of the best strikers in the world during this period.

The former Palermo man played a total of 138 games across all competitions with Napoli and scored a total of 104 goals, which is something that says a lot considering that he wasn't playing with a squad that was vastly superior to the rest of Serie A. So, it made a lot of sense that Edinson was bound to get the interest of bigger clubs, and that it did.

Cavani's exit

Edinson had created a lot of interest from some of the best teams in the world during his time at Napoli and it seemed inevitable that he was going to leave. While he admitted that he was going to say in the summer of 2012 and he fulfilled his word, the 2012/13 season was filled with rumors of a potential exit, and the Italian club was determined to keep him for a longer time, although that was very difficult to make happen.

Eventually, Paris Saint Germain, which had already knocked on the club's door the previous summer for Lavezzi, were interested in Cavani. After signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic from AC Milan back in 2012, the Parisian club wanted to complement him with another heavy hitter from Serie A and thought Cavani was the man.

In that regard, the negotiations took a while but PSG eventually got the job done and signed Cavani for a 65 million euros fee, making it the sixth-highest transfer in football history at the time. This is particularly impressive considering where Cavani was three years ago and that is something that deserves a lot of praise.

Footballers and their development is not a straight line. There are a lot of different ways for a player to hit their peak and Cavani's journey is an example of that.
Kelvin Tingling knows most things about football and also likes to write about it. Kelvin lives in Buenos Aires and his favorite team is Boca Juniors.