By David Mosse
It took a hat-trick against Chelsea in the Supercup for the English media to finally take note of Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao, so not surprisingly the exploits of Edinson Cavani haven’t received quite as much attention, but with 10 days left in the January transfer window, Cavani’s future could go a long way towards deciding the title race in two different countries.
The Uruguayan scored his 100thSerie A goal this past weekend in Napoli’s 1-1 draw away to Fiorentina, and his record since joining the Partenopei three seasons ago stands at 66 goals in 88 league games. He recently scored in eight straight matches in all competitions, and has found the back of the net an astonishing 20 times in his last 16 games for club and country.
Cavani’s goals have helped Napoli remain within striking distance of Juventus, and Walter Mazzarri’s side was further buoyed by recouping two points originally deducted due to a match-fixing scandal. The successful appeal means the Partenopei are level on points with Lazio for second place, and trail Juventus by five, but they undoubtedly pose the greatest threat to the Old Lady.
Napoli and Juventus meet on March 1 at San Paolo Stadium, and the question is whether Cavani will be present that day given the interest coming from the Premier League. Arsene Wenger is said to be a big admirer, while Manchester City has been linked with a move for the Uruguayan.
Cavani is likely too rich for Arsenal’s blood, but the 25-year-old would make plenty of sense for the Citizens given the inconsistent play of their strikers so far this season. Manchester City trails Manchester United by five points, and the only way back for Roberto Mancini’s side is to acquire someone like Cavani to answer the Red Devils’ summer addition of Robin van Persie.
Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis responded somewhat facetiously to the Manchester City rumors by claiming he might bid for Mario Balotelli, but such a move is unlikely from a club still scarred by its recent past. It’s been a long road back for the Partenopei from the massive financial difficulties that landed them in Serie C less than a decade ago, and De Laurentiis isn’t about to start spending recklessly.
The best move he ever made was buying Cavani from Palermo in the summer of 2010 for a transfer fee of 17 million euros paid in two separate installments. The second best move might have been accepting Paris Saint-Germain’s lucrative offer for Ezequiel Lavezzi this past summer. Napoli hasn’t missed a beat without the overrated Argentine, but the same would not be true if Cavani left town.
De Laurentiis claims to have already rejected an offer of 55 million euros for his star striker, and if the prominent film producer can resist the temptation to turn a massive profit on this investment, Napoli is well placed to secure a second Champions League berth in three seasons, and may indeed challenge for its first Serie A title since the days of Diego Maradona and Careca.
Cavani’s former club Palermo was involved in the most exciting match of the weekend, holding Lazio to a 2-2 draw on Saturday at Renzo Barbera Stadium. The Rosanero scored twice in two minutes in the second half to take the lead, but a late Hernanes penalty salvaged a point for Vladimir Petkovic’s side, which had an opportunity to temporarily move level on points with Juventus atop the standings.
The league leaders picked up their first Serie A win of this calendar year in emphatic fashion, knocking off Udinese 4-0 at home on Saturday with Paul Pogba grabbing the headlines. The young Frenchman scored two sensational goals from long distance, while Mirko Vucinic and Alessandro Matri found the back of the net as well. Antonio Di Natale was battling the flu and started from the bench.
Elsewhere, a mistake by goalkeeper Antonio Mirante cost Parma two points, but the Gialloblu are still unbeaten in five league games after a 1-1 result away to Chievo. Atalanta’s Michele Canini produced the blooper of the weekend with a comical own goal in a 1-1 draw against former club Cagliari, and Torino earned a crucial 2-0 victory at Pescara with Mario Alberto Santana and Alessio Cerci on target.
Some Other Thoughts:
*AC Milan has emerged as a significant player in the January transfer market with Kaka’s return looking increasingly likely -- provided the Brazilian is willing to make sacrifices financially -- and Mario Balotelli linked with a move to the Rossoneri. Silvio Berlusconi recently apologized for referring to Balotelli as a rotten apple, and for the right price it seems Milan would be interested in the troubled striker.
The right price is certainly not the 30 million pounds Manchester City is currently demanding, but with a seemingly lost season now very much salvageable, Berlusconi owes it to Milan supporters to spend some money. The Rossoneri moved up to sixth in the table with a 2-1 home win over Bologna this past weekend, and have suffered just one defeat in their last 9 league games.
*Milan benefited from another round without a victory for Roma. Francesco Totti scored his first league goal against Inter-Milan at the Olimpico since October 2004, converting a controversial penalty midway through the first half, but the Nerazzurri equalized through Rodrigo Palacio, quietly enjoying a terrific season, and the 1-1 result will please the visitors more given Inter’s lengthy injury list at the moment.
*Siena manager Beppe Iachini achieved some measure of revenge this past weekend, as his side earned a 1-0 win over Sampdoria. Iachini guided the Blucerchiati to promotion last season only to be unceremoniously dumped in the summer because he wasn’t a big enough name. His emotions got the better of him, however, as Iachini was sent off before the final whistle, helping spark a massive brawl.