The Uruguayan has been prolific during three highly successful seasons at Napoli, but with Europe's biggest spenders circling his time in Serie A could well be coming to an endBy Kris Voakes
Even before the 2012-13 season reached its final furlong it was clear that this summer was likely to be an intense one for Napoli. The club has already undergone a change of coaching with Rafa Benitez having replaced Walter Mazzarri and are now fighting a losing battle to retain their totemic striker Edinson Cavani.
It is a credit to the player that with his future having been a matter of intense speculation for close to a year, his standards have rarely wavered. Everyone has had their say, even his father talked up the chances of him leaving and as a result interested parties have had their ears pricked for some time - now they are ready to pounce.
|CAVANI'S CAREER STATS
"He has told me he wants to go elsewhere and to leave Napoli," mum Berta Gomez told a Uruguayan radio station in April, with his father having earlier announced I believe that today there is a 50 per cent chance of Edinson signing for Real Madrid."
While Madrid remain in the hunt and there has been talk of new Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho having Cavani on his wishlist, it is Manchester City who have Cavani at the top of a dazzling priority list.
Despite the sacking of manager Roberto Mancini in May, City director of football Txiki Begiristain has gone ahead with plans for an early assault on the transfer market this summer, with Cavani his ideal marquee signing to follow the €20 million purchase of Jesus Navas.
Preliminary talks have already been held between the two clubs over a potential transfer, with Edin Dzeko being considered as a possible makeweight. De Laurentiis even used the conversations relating to the two strikers as a cover for being in London when first making contact with Benitez over his arrival in Naples.
De Laurentiis gave the impression, though, that he was far from impressed by City's initial noises. "I told [sporting director Riccardo] Bigon to get in touch with Manchester City to open talks about Dzeko and see what their plans are with Cavani. There's a lot of talk, but less action when it comes to actually spending money. Unlike me, others seem to be taking a lot of time to use their bank account."
|THE VIEW FROM ITALY
"Cavani could well decide to leave Napoli as he looks to finally win something of real note with a big-hitting European club.
"Of those clubs that have been mentioned in the same breath as the Uruguyan, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea are the ones to be taken seriously, as they have both the weight and the cash to make a tempting offer to Napoli and also win over the player with a big contract.
"Cavani's €63 million release clause is key in all of this though, with Napoli president Ayrelio De Laurentiis insistent that he will not allow the striker to leave for anything less. Such a figure would be key to the club building a new side capable of fighting for honours with Cavani in the squad.
"That figure of €63m remains at the heart of the entire scenario. If no club matches the fee, then Cavani will stay in Naples, but the real fun will start if somebody finally steps and meets the valuation."
- Renato Maisani | Goal Italy
While Dzeko is thought to be more keen on a return to the Bundesliga than a switch to Italy, Cavani himself has cast doubt on a possible move to City with talk of Real Madrid being his dream club.
"As a child, I dreamed of playing at this club [Real Madrid] or Barcelona," the 26-year-old told La Gazzetta dello Sport, prompting further fears from Napoli fans which forced Anellucci to speak out.
"Nobody said that Edinson wants to leave Napoli," Anellucci told Il Mattino. "He only has a certain dream to play for the team of his heart, which he has had ever since his childhood. What's wrong with it to say that out loud?"
But again, Cavani has refused to nail his colours to the Napoli mast, telling Corriere del Mezzogiorno last weekend: "Is Napoli my future? Napoli is my today. No one can predict the future. I can only say that today I am happy.
"As for Real Madrid... kids dream, it is normal. Everyone does it. I found Napoli and I am proud. Then again it's nice to dream, even when you are grown up."
And while Manchester City want Cavani and the player himself seems to want Real Madrid, all Napoli want is their money. De Laurentiis refuses to be moved on the striker's valuation of €63m, insisting that he will not release the player without the asking price being met.
"Cavani has a contract for another four years and a buy-out clause worth €63m," De Laurentiis wrote on Twitter in a question and answer session earlier this week.
"We have received many offers for Cavani, but all of them were much lower than the buy-out clause."
Napoli's hopes of sparking an intense bidding war are further decreased, however, by the public protestations of Paris Saint-Germain, who paid the Serie A side over £20m last summer for Ezequiel Lavezzi.
"The Uruguayan is not our goal this summer," PSG sporting director Leonardo told Sky Sport Italia. "You should not expect a sensational transfer market [from us] because we already have champions."
Having lost their domestic crowns to their bitter rivals, both Manchester City and Real Madrid will significantly enhance their chances of inheriting the moniker of champions should they be successful in their pursuit of Cavani.