Edinson Cavani Watch: How Did the Chelsea Target Fare vs. Nigeria?

John BainesCorrespondent IJune 20, 2013

Under the microscope: Edinson Cavani
Under the microscope: Edinson CavaniLaurence Griffiths/Getty Images

If you believe Martin Lipton of the Mirror, then Edinson Cavani is the man Jose Mourinho wants to lead the Chelsea forward line next season. Many of the Blues faithful share the Special One's supposed wishes to see the Uruguayan striker at Stamford Bridge.

Personally I'm still not convinced that the Napoli man is the right pick. I feel the move is fraught with danger—especially coming with a reported £50 million price tag.

True, Cavani's goal-scoring record since arriving at the San Paolo stadium from Palermo three seasons ago is nothing short of remarkable. The whole tale of the tape reads 104 goals in just 138 appearances, with the 26-year-old passing 30 three years on the spin and firing home an unrivalled Serie A return of 78 goals in 104 appearances for "La Partenopei."

But that doesn't tell the whole story, and as I've suggested in my articles "What Sort of Striker Would Best Suit Chelsea?" and "Summer Transfers Chelsea Should Make", I don't feel that an out and out poacher in Cavani's mould is necessarily the best solution for the team as a whole.

So I decided to put him under the spotlight and take a closer look when he lined up for his national side in the Confederations Cup Group B game against Nigeria in Salvador on Wednesday night.

In an interesting subtext, Chelsea's young defender Kenneth Omeruo lined up at the back for the Super Eagles, so I was intrigued to see how he fared against an attacking triumvirate of Cavani, Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez.

As expected, Cavani acted as the spearhead with the other two flanking in a system which Mourinho could implement armed with the likes of Eden Hazard and Andre Schurrle. But whereas Suarez and Forlan floated with menace and purpose throughout, Cavani was peripheral.

His work rate was never in question. He ran the channels incessantly and contested high balls with vigour, but his touch looked uncertain and he was leggy in regularly ceding possession.

Balls into him bounced out, and the tall striker looked lacking in the subtleties demonstrated so well by his strike partners.

Cavani's strengths and weaknesses were probably summed up in Uruguay's opening goal. After Nigeria had partially cleared a Celeste corner, Forlan returned a low centre into the area where Cavani had made a sharp dart ahead of his markers to the near post.

But in keeping with a sloppy opening period, the Napoli man fluffed his flick and was fortunate when Diego Lugano bundled in the loose ball behind him.

Again, it was good, bad and ugly from the in-demand striker, with shrewd movement buying him an opportunity, only for the execution to let him down.

Shortly after the opener, the 26-year-old sprang the Super Eagles offside trap before being rightly called back for going marginally astray. However, his movement was instinctive yet calculated—as was the left foot strike which followed that Enyeama did well to repel.

After that, Cavani drifted further and further into anonymity. In fairness, that could have been said about the majority of Oscar Tabarez's men except for Lugano, who was embarrassed by the fleet-footed John Obi Mikel in equalising after 37 minutes.

The Chelsea anchorman showed the sort of deft footwork around the box which was conspicuously missing from the player he may be sharing a dressing room with in the next few weeks.

As Nigeria dominated the closing exchanges of the first period, Cavani looked isolated. His only involvement was to harangue the Nigeria back line as his teammates retreated. Personally I'm not one for spurious statistics, but if you care to check up on how many times Cavani found a man in the opening 45 minutes, I'd guess that you could count it on one hand.

Soon after the restart, his involvement surged past the nonexistent when he set up Forlan to put Uruguay back in front. But the assist was nothing to write home about. He slotted a simple pass into the path of the former Manchester United man to rifle home.

But that did little to rouse Cavani from his slumber. He was soon back to chasing shadows and challenging for balls sent vaguely in his direction.

Time and again possession slipped from his grasp until the 70th minute, when a chance opened up to show us what he's all about.

After Nigeria gave the ball away just into the opposition half, Cavani peeled away to the right and was sprung in behind by Forlan's clipped diagonal. He took the high ball on his chest well at first, but with time and space to burst through on goal, the second and third touches were clumsy before the fourth was blasted high and wide after he had given Elderson Echiejile time to get back.

Looking well short of confidence, Cavani's night went from bad to worse five minutes later when Forlan's delicate free-kick found him alone on the penalty spot. But again his lethal touch looked back in Naples, as he looped a timid header over the bar when he really should have boxed the game off.

For the remainder of the game, Cavani ploughed a lone furrow with his side holding on until the final minute of injury time, when he wriggled free of one challenge on the halfway line and weaved towards goal. He was stopped in his tracks by Kenneth Omeruo, the 19-year-old who spent a season on loan at ADO Den Haag last season and is likely to be sent away by the Blues over the next year or so.

All in all, it was a very underwhelming show from the man Chelsea are speculated to be readying a £50 million bid for, and on this evidence, alarm bells should be ringing.

In fairness, the Confederations Cup has come on the back of a long and arduous domestic campaign in which Cavani has struck 38 times. But many of my initial misgivings about his lack of involvement outside the box came to pass. Even when he was presented chances, they were spurned timidly.

I've always said that it's a dangerous game to buy players at the peak of their powers, and although Cavani has been one of the most prolific strikers in Europe over the past few years, at some point a heavy workload is bound to catch up with a player.

My major worry about Cavani is that when he doesn't score, there is little else contributed in consolation. Against Nigeria, he was conspicuous for the duration, offering no outlet or link up with teammates.

There's no doubt that Cavani is a top-class goal scorer, but simply taking somebody prolific out of one side built around him and placing him into another is not always a recipe for success.

Chelsea have had their fingers burned in similar circumstances with Andriy Shevchenko and Fernando Torres, so on a night where the Spaniard scored four and John Obi Mikel scored one, this was not the time nor the place for Europe's most in demand striker to be put into the shade by a 19-year-old rookie.

Let me know if you think I'm wrong. Is Edinson Cavani the man Chelsea should go for, and would you be comfortable splashing out £50 million to bring him to the Bridge?

Leave me some comments below, or catch me on Twitter @bainesyDiego10