By Robin Bairner
Paris and Monte-Carlo are two of the most glamorous cities in Europe, so when the sides who represent them go head-to-head on Sunday, it is fitting that they will be spearheaded by two of the costliest players to have ever played the game.
Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco seemed intent on duelling for the right to hold the Ligue 1 transfer record this summer, with the principality club’s €60 million (£50m) capture of Colombian Radamel Falcao ultimately eclipsed by the Parc des Prince outfit’s €64m (£53.8m) swoop for former Napoli forward Edinson Cavani.
On Sunday, they take to the field together in direct opposition for the first time in their new surroundings. And already, both strikers are shaping up to be the prolific additions their teams hoped they would become. Cavani has two goals in three Ligue 1 starts, plus another in the Champions League, while Falcao is already sitting on four Championnat strikes.
Given the reputation that each had on arrival in France, this should come as no surprise. These signings were not overblown gestures designed to boost the prestige of the clubs; instead, they were world-class additions to highly-ambitious outfits who genuinely hope to become established forces at the very highest level.
Falcao, for instance, scored 58 goals in a two-season stint in La Liga with Atletico Madrid, a tally that would be considered remarkable had it not been for the seemingly-impossible figures being accumulated by both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Cavani, meanwhile, has not been far behind, striking 78 times in 104 Serie A encounters, including a career-high tally of 29 last season.
Since moving to France, of course, the goals have continued to flow. Despite this, questions still need to be answered by both.
|CAVANI v FALCAO
|February 14, 1987||DATE OF BIRTH
||February 10, 1986|
|6||2013-14 CLUB APPEARANCES
|3||2013-14 CLUB GOALS
|55||TOTAL INTL CAPS
|18||TOTAL INTL GOALS
Cavani’s issue is perhaps the most obvious. Co-existing in a side previously dominated by Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be no mean feat and there are still doubts over the ability of the Uruguayan to unseat PSG’s kingpin. And even if he does, will the Swede be happy to play a secondary role?
During Tuesday’s Champions League meeting against Olympiakos, a team-focused Ibra worked industriously but was clearly itching to score. Having a penalty saved by the hosts’ goalkeeper late in the game will have done little to brighten his mood, although it must be noted that the former AC Milan and Juventus striker has three assists to his credit in seven games.
Ibrahimovic, however, has not entirely managed to adapt his all-round play to having Cavani alongside him, while the Uruguayan is simply the type of striker almost incapable of playing a different role.
In many ways, then, the success or failure of this partnership is in the Swede’s hands; if he cannot or will not change his style to become more of a support player, it seems inconceivable that the two will be compatible in the squad.
Falcao’s success seems more to do with his own psyche. Four goals in five games masks what has been a largely mundane start from the South American. Twice he has scored from the penalty spot and his all-round play has not been breath taking.
At times his movement has not been perhaps quite as it should, despite receiving a healthy supply from midfield, and he has failed to link play just quite as smoothly as might be expected. Indeed, Lorient's Lamine Kone claimed last week that the Colombian is easy to mark compared with the likes of Ibrahimovic and Bafetimbi Gomis of Olympique Lyonnais.
It may simply be an acclimatisation process into a new team, but Monaco players of the past, Eidur Gudjohnsen, for example, have also spoken of the difficulty to get motivated to play in front of such sparse crowds.
The club have been at pains to stress that they selected their summer signings on the basis of their professionalism and motivation, and given the way their star man has jubilantly celebrated each of his strikes it would be jumping to a great conclusion to suggest a lack of enthusiasm was in any way an issue.
Both Cavani and Falcao have shouldered their great expectations impressively so far, yet Sunday’s match at Parc des Princes is the biggest of the year in France and will go a long way to determining the narrative of this campaign.
If PSG claim three points, talk of any early-season crisis will have to well and truly be forgotten, but Monaco would have to be considered genuine contenders for the Ligue 1 crown should they leave with a win. Whatever the outcome, the likelihood is that Falcao and Cavani will be firmly in the Paris limelight.
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