By Kris Voakes | International Football Correspondent
Once upon a time, Edinson Cavani could do no wrong. Scoring over 100 goals in three years for Napoli, the Uruguayan was considered by most football fans in the Campania region of Italy to be the greatest thing to grace the earth since Diego Maradona.
These are more difficult times for the Paris Saint-Germain striker though. He hasn’t exactly failed since his €64.5 million switch to France last summer, netting a respectable 22 times in 40 fixtures for les Parisiens.
However, his overall effect has so far fallen a long way short of expectation, and he admitted recently that all was not well. "I am in Paris, but there are certainly things we must talk about with the club, things should be done differently," he said.
For much of the campaign, Cavani’s struggles have been explained as a consequence of the massive impact made by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with the giant Swede’s dictatorship of the forward line finding the ex-Napoli and Palermo man shunted into a wide position.
|MATCH FACTS | Lyon 1-0 PSG
But the hamstring injury which has forced Ibrahimovic into the stands and brought Cavani back into centre stage has put the 27-year-old’s entire role at the club under the spotlight. Instead of thriving in his new-found freedom, he has shrivelled into the corner when PSG have been in need of an another Ibra.
On Tuesday night, he missed a crucial chance to put distance between the Rouge-Et-Bleu and Chelsea in the Champions League but failed to make Petr Cech work. Twenty minutes later, Demba Ba scrambled in the goal which turned PSG’s European dreams to dust. Where one mega-money centre-forward had succumbed, another altogether less heralded front man succeeded.
Then on Sunday, with Laurent Blanc looking to Cavani to get his side back to winning ways away to Lyon in Ligue 1, the No.9 again failed to take the opportunity to make his mark.
When he had the chance to round Anthony Lopes and put PSG ahead, he went to ground theatrically and had his penalty appeals justly waved away. When asked to play with his back to goal like Ibra, he couldn’t. When given balls in the channels, from which he fashioned his reputation at Napoli as a demon marksman, he just couldn’t make the most of them. When heading opportunities came his way, he was left lacking the predatory instinct in the air too.
Jordan Ferri’s superb curling strike from distance in the first half following a loose pass from Ezequiel Lavezzi only served to deepen Cavani’s and PSG’s misery. It was a hugely worthy victory for Lyon, who have been one of France’s best teams for the past five months. The capital club will undoubtedly still triumph in Ligue 1, but the absence of Ibrahimovic has coincided with their worst run since December 2011.
Questions will rightly be asked as to why Blanc’s men can’t find the right formula when the Swede is not available.
Shouldn’t a player with the price tag of Cavani be able to fit seamlessly into the position he loves the most, especially in a team he’s now so used to? Blanc has his own theory.
"Cavani had a serious injury and he wants to play in the World Cup," he said. "He's afraid of a recurrence. Unconsciously, it's necessary that he relaxes."
The truth, however, is that PSG spent €64.5m last summer on a player they didn’t really need. They already had a 40-goal striker and Cavani has been left picking up Ibrahimovic’s scraps.
He was a luxury they could afford, but the French champions had better hope he returns to his best form sooner rather than later. Otherwise, the Uruguayan might never be able to justify one of the world’s biggest ever transfer fees.Follow Kris Voakes on