From roots to riches: The rise to stardom of Edinson Cavani

The Uruguay international has come a long way from his humble beginnings to become one of football's most expensive players of all-time
By Victor Vago

He's the second most expensive footballer of all-time after completing a €64 million move from Napoli to Paris Saint-Germain this summer, but Edinson Cavani's rise to stardom is every inch a roots to riches tale.

The explosive forward is set to make his full debut for Laurent Blanc's side in front of a partisan Parisian support against Ajaccio on Sunday, despite missing Uruguay's international friendly against Japan with a minor injury.

But way before Cavani first laced up a pair of boots or became the subject of a transfer saga that threatened to run longer than his shoulder length hair, it was very much a case of green fingers for the Salto-born star.

The Uruguay international was at one with nature from an early age and would earn extra money by helping neighbours with their gardening.

“Since he was little we went fishing together and camping in the mountains, and there he always felt happy fishing, hunting and sleeping on the floor," his father Luis remembers.

“He asked me to lend him the tools and he had his customers. Although there weren’t so many customers, it was enough to enable him to make some money and feel comfortable.”


After three goal-filled years with Palermo, Napoli splashed out €17 million on the striker as Cavani became Serie A's hottest property.

Cavani's success continued on the international stage. In 2011 he was part of the Uruguay side that lifted the Copa America.

After topping the Serie A scoring charts in 2012-13 with 29 goals, PSG paid Napoli €64 million to partner Ibrahimovic at Parc des Princes.
As a former professional footballer and coach, football has played as big a part in Luis' life as his son's, but as he approaches his retirement he still loves to be close to nature. Every day he drives a tractor and helps to get rid of weeds near to the Salto Grande hydroelectric dam for the company which employs him.

It was Luis’ influence that first saw Edinson set out on the path to becoming a footballer, while Edinson’s elder half-brother, Walter Guglielmone, also plays the game in China for Beijing BIT.

Luis, who was known as “El Gringo” because of his Italian surname, played for Nacional and Salto Uruguay and later coached both teams. Edinson first played the game at the age of three and soon began playing for various junior teams in his native city of Salto, where he quickly began to show his talent.

Luis recalls: “Edinson always wanted to play with a ball on any ground near home with other kids and they’d set up a goal and have fun with it as long as they could.

“He joined Salto Uruguay at the age of 12 and when he was 13 I took over coaching the team and put him in the youth first team, not because he was my son but because he had the ability and I saw him as a footballer.

“With him being a kid when I was in charge of the Salto team, he accompanied me and with his thin little legs he’d practise shooting at goalkeepers and in warm-ups and the same when I coached a Colonias Agrarias team, he’d get involved and play.”

But Edinson was not allowed to neglect his studies because of football.

Luis, who is the father to two sons and three daughters, explained: “We’ve always tried to give the children the best for their education and I’ve always told them, especially Edinson, that before playing football they would have to develop as people to succeed in life and he’s clear about that, because otherwise there’s no point being a star on the pitch and an example of nothing away from it.

“An example of his devotion to football is the fact that as an adolescent he wasn’t bothered about night parties and always wanted to go to bed early so that the next morning he could have all his energy to give to the ball. Football was his life," he added.

When Edinson moved to the capital Montevideo to join Uruguayan outfit Liverpool at the age of 17, he missed his native Salto and didn’t enjoy the atmosphere with his team-mates.

He asked Walter for advice. Walter, who has the same mother but a different father, was a player with Danubio at the time and told him to try his luck with the side.

Former Danubio head Anibal Rey recalls: “At Danubio we received Edinson Cavani with open arms. Besides, he came recommended by his half-brother Walter Guglielmone and he adapted quickly.

“In February 2006, we went with Danubio youth team to play in the Coppa Carnevale in Viareggio (Italy) and he was in the team. He put in two great performances, and it led to (Italian team) Chievo de Verona setting eyes on him and they invited him to stay for a week, training, but then the transfer didn’t happen.”

Edinson was promoted to Danubio’s first team and scored his first goal for the side in May 2006, ironically against Liverpool.

To begin with, Cavani was far from a prolific goalscorer and tended to miss a lot of chances, but intensive work with his coach, Matosas, helped to transform him into one of Europe's most feared hitmen.

He joined Italian club Palermo in a €4.4 million deal back in 2007 before moving to Napoli three years later, where he found the back of the net 104 times in 138 games in all competitions, including an incredible 38 goals last season.

Such is his popularity in Naples, they even named a pizza and a brand of biscuits after him. Cavani subsequently attracted attention from Europe's biggest clubs, with Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City all credited with an interest in the player, but in the end it was PSG - with the backing of their mega-rich owners - who were able to secure the deal.

Throughout the saga, he endured a painful split from his wife, Soldead Cabris. The pair separated in March this year, with Cavani's father Luis keen for the matter to remain a private one.

“I won’t talk about Edinson’s marital split with Soledad because there are two beautiful grandchildren involved," he added. "The parents are grown-up enough and all I’ve asked them is to think about the children so that they don’t suffer with this separation.”

His life away from football may well be far from perfect, but as he prepares to pull on a Paris Saint-Germain jersey and begin a new chapter in his career on Sunday, the shoots of success show no signs of slowing anytime soon.