Our definitive countdown of the best players of 2010-11 continues with the Copa America winner who was also a smash hit in front of goal in his loan season with Napoli
When Napoli loaned Edinson Cavani from Palermo last summer, they can hardly have wished for a better 12 months than those they have experienced since, with the Uruguayan becoming a key player in the reawakening of the southern Italian club 20 years after the end of Diego Maradona era.
Barely a month into the campaign it was clear that they would eventually make his signing permanent; such was his immediate impact at the San Paolo. Having netted twice in his first start for the club away to Elfsborg in the Europa League, ‘El Matador’ added goals in his opening three Serie A appearances in the famous blue shirt before adding two more at Cesena in Round 5, including a delicious strike into the far top corner to seal a 4-1 win.
|"How much is Cavani worth? Cavani is priceless. He is not for sale. I wouldn't sell him for €100 million. If I say he is worth a lot, hopefully people will tire of asking about him."
- Aurelio De Laurentiis
His scoring run continued when he bagged a dramatic injury-time equaliser in the 3-3 draw at Steaua Bucharest as the Partenopei fought back from an early 3-0 deficit, but his form took a comparative dip with only one goal in the next six games. However, working superbly at the point of the Vesuviani’s attacking triumvirate alongside Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik, sitting off the shoulder of the last defender and using his pace to frighten the life out of opponents, it was never going to be too long before he more than made up for it.
|MOMENT OF THE SEASON
NAPOLI 4-3 LAZIO
|A headed equaliser, a penalty leveller and an impudent chip with the outside of the boot sent San Paolo wild as Napoli come from 2-0 and 3-2 down thanks to the predatory skills of 'El Matador'.
In early December he took his tally in Europe to seven with his first hat-trick for Napoli away to Utrecht as they again secured a 3-3 draw, this time from 3-1 down. A month later he bagged a memorable treble in Serie A as his side beat fellow Champions League contenders Juventus 3-0 at San Paolo. After a pair of first-half headers, an audacious Scorpion kick third completed the misery for the Bianconeri.
Cavani grabbed himself another January tripletta, this time putting Sampdoria to the sword as Walter Mazzarri’s men kept up their relentless pursuit of AC Milan at the top of Serie A, before adding braces against Roma and Cagliari. His big moment came against Lazio in early April though.
Trailing 2-0 and then 3-2 at home to Lazio, the Azzurri’s Serie A challenge appeared all but over until Cavani turned the fixture into one of the most memorable of the league season. After a headed leveller, the Uruguayan equalised again from the penalty spot before a perfectly adjudged chip on the run with the outside of his right boot in the 88th minute secured the three points in sensational style to send the San Paolo into raptures.
That would prove to be the pinnacle of Napoli’s season, and Cavani’s too. Successive defeats against Udinese and Palermo and a red card at Lecce in Round 36 meant that the striker helped to celebrate a third-placed finish and subsequent return to the Champions League as a spectator.
|"At the point of Napoli's attacking triumvirate alongside Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik, he sits off the shoulder of the last defender and uses his pace to frighten the life out of opponents."|
He was back in action when Uruguay travelled to Argentina for the Copa America, starting the opening game draw with Peru before picking up a knee injury in the 1-1 draw against Chile which forced him off at half-time. The problem was enough to force Cavani out of the next three games as his compatriots saw off Mexico, Argentina and Peru to earn a place in the final against Paraguay.
Cavani was available once more, and came on for the last 25 minutes to help see the Celeste to a 3-0 win which confirmed them as the most successful side in Copa history. It was only fitting that the forward had at least a small part to play after a magnificent year which had yielded 39 goals for club and country.