Having secured Champions League football for S.S.C. Napoli last season, Edinson Cavani is now setting European audiences alight with his commanding performances up-front. Playing alongside Argentine Ezequiel Lavezzi and Slovakian Marek Hamsik in attack, Cavani has already scored five goals this season, including a hat-trick at the current Serie A champions AC Milan and strikes against both Manchester City and Villarreal. Cavani's rise to brilliance has really been coming for a long time.
Edinson Roberto Cavani Gomez was born in Salto, in the north westerly region of Uruguay, and the second largest city in the country. From a humble backround, both of his parents worked extremely hard for him to get the opportunity to train. At a very young age Cavani was already attracting the attention of the bigger clubs around Uruguay, but his father kept grounded by insisting that he not move to the capital Montevideo until the tender age of twelve.
Cavani moved to the capital and six-time Copa Libertadores winners Danubio FC. At first it appeared that he would not have the mental strength to settle in, but soon forgot about his homesickness and became one of the rising stars of the academy. After six years of learning the tricks of the trade in the reserves, Cavani broke into the senior team in 2006. In his debut season Danubio won the Apertura Championship and Edinson was an intricate part of the team, scoring nine goals.
After that amazing debut season, Cavani was then called up to the Uruguayan Under-20 National Team. He was a huge part of the 2007 Under-20 South American Youth Championship and helped Uruguay to a third place finish, only losing out to Brazil and Argentina. The dynamic striker also bagged the top scorer award with seven goals in nine games, outscoring a young man by the name of Alexandre Pato.
This was Cavani's breakthrough, and an array of European sides were lining up a move, including the likes of AC Milan and Juventus. In the end however it was the Sicilian side Palermo that got his signature on the 31st of January 2007. On his debut against Fiorentina, Cavani came on as a substitute and scored an absolute cracker to repay the faith that club president Maurizio Zamparini had put in him. In his first season Edinson fought nobly for his place, but both Fabrizio Miccoli and Amauri were the main men in front of him. After the latter was sold in 2008, Cavani strung up a good partnership with Miccoli, which eventually resulted in Cavani bagging fourteen goals in the 2008/09 season.
Cavani is originally of Italian descent, as his grandparents were from Maranello in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna. This meant that, despite representing Uruguay at underage level, Cavani could have played for the Italian National Team. He snubbed Italy, and instead played for Uruguay in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Cavani was part of one of the best forward lines in the tournament, as he played alongside Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez. Under the management of Oscar Tabarez, Uruguay went on a remarkable run, eventually finishing fourth.
In his time at Palermo, Cavani scored thirty-seven goals in one hundred and seventeen appearances. They also qualified for the Europa League, and got very close to the Champions League. In April 2010 Cavani signed a contract extension at the Rosanero until June 2014.
That summer Cavani was surprisingly loaned out to Palermo's rivals S.S.C. Napoli. In his first four games in Naples Edinson scored four goals, and was immediately loved by the Ultras. That season Cavani went on to score thirty three goals in forty seven appearances, including hat-tricks against Juventus, Sampdoria and Lazio. Napoli challenged for the Scudetto that season, but eventually lost out to AC Milan, but still managed to automatically qualify for the Champions League group stages.
After an unbelievable season, Napoli bought out Cavani's Palermo contract by paying eleven million euros, on top of three and half million euros they had already paid. Palermo were upset with the completion of the contract, as they were on the verge of accepting a bid from Manchester City. Under Roberto Mancini, City made three bids for Cavani, all rejected. They eventually bought Edin Dzeko from German side VFL Wolfsburg instead for thirty-two million euros.
In the summer of 2011, Cavani and Uruguay won the Copa America in Argentina. Uruguay finished second in their group, and went on to beat hosts Argentina, Peru and finally Paraguay in the final. Cavani himself picked up an ankle injury in the opening game against Chile. After that Cavani did not play as much as he probably would have wished, but despite that picked up his first international trophy.
Before the Copa America, Cavani signed an extension on his Napoli contract meaning he will be there until 2016. So far this season he is replicating the electric form he had last season. No doubt that Cavani will continue his form, but the differences between him and other top class strikers are clear to see.
At the start of his time at Palermo, Cavani was farmed out wide and many critics believed he would never have the quality to be true number nine. He uses his six foot two stature to his advantage, and is surprisingly quick for towering forward. His unorthodox dribbling style bemuses defenders, and overall his movement sets him apart. He makes space for his team-mates and times his runs to perfection. In many ways Cavani makes his own luck, he always seems to be in the right place at the right time, and his grinta (Italian for grit) always means he's one step ahead. The main difference between him and other strikers is his defensive capabilities. He'll be counter-attacking one minute and saving the defence the next. All this and handsome looks too, nicknamed 'El Matador' for his commanding presence.
At the age of only twenty-four, 'El Matador' is going places and fast. He is taking Europe and the world by storm, and don't expect him to be playing in Italy for much longer. Napoli were drawn in the same Champions League group as Manchester City, Villarreal and Bayern Munich and the so-called 'group of death'. As it stands Napoli are second, behind Bayern, on six points. Cavani is just starting out in a career that has the potential to make him one of the best strikers of all time.
Not convinced? Take a look at his goals from last season: