The presence of Neymar and Mbappe puts Cavani's PSG future at risk
PARIS -- Less than one year ago, Edinson Cavani put pen to paper on a lucrative contract extension with Paris Saint-Germain to take him through until the summer of 2020. But despite a glut of goals since then, could the Uruguay international's time at Parc des Princes be coming to an end?
There is certainly growing suspicion in the French capital that Cavani -- who recently overtook former teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the club's all-time leading goal scorer -- Kylian Mbappe and Neymar do not have strong enough chemistry for the trio to fire PSG to their lofty objectives.
Cavani, 31, scored two more goals in the 5-2 home win over Strasbourg in Ligue 1 last weekend to take him to 23 on the season along with four assists from 24 appearances in the league alone. That gives him a chance of hitting the 40-goal mark before the end of the campaign.
El Matador's prolific goalscoring exploits and passionate displays have endeared him to the Parc des Princes faithful and understandably so, but it is not his finishing ability that has raised questions about his future past the end of this term.
Instead, it is Cavani's link-up with his two strike partners and big-money signings from last summer -- Mbappe and Neymar -- which was perfectly illustrated during last Wednesday's 3-1 first leg defeat away at Real Madrid in the Champions League round of 16.
The normally terrifying trio were subdued at times and although Zinedine Zidane's men defended well, Cavani, Mbappe and Neymar could not muster a goal between them and did not do enough with the amount of ball that Adrien Rabiot and Marco Verratti supplied them.
This was not entirely Cavani's fault, but the South American paid for the triumvirate's unproductive night in front of goal by being withdrawn midway through the second half in order for Thomas Meunier to be introduced in a strange substitution from Unai Emery.
Cavani is a massive favourite with the fans and brings a lot to the team outside of goals, such as his hard work, willingness to defend, selflessness and committed approach as well as his exemplary attitude.
However, the former Napoli and Palermo man has a few things working against him if he is to stay with the capital club. He is not one of the two most expensive players in the world -- like Neymar and Mbappe -- he is also at least five years their senior and isn't the most technical on the ball either.
There are many ways of looking at PSG's front three but with most, it is difficult to see how it will be a long-term association. Putting aside the numerous controversies featuring Cavani and Neymar since the Brazilian superstar's arrival in Paris, the pair only work with Mbappe to a degree.
Those limits have been exposed twice in the Champions League already this season -- away at Bayern Munich in the group stage and away at Real in the last 16 -- and there are other areas of the starting XI that need work.
Admittedly, Cavani, Mbappe and Neymar have not played too much football together in 2018 so far because of a combination of things. The Uruguayan's late return to France post-winter break, the Frenchman's collision with Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes, subsequent injury lay-off and first career red card, as well as the Brazilian's regular days off mixed with a few knocks, have all contributed to a lack of game time together.
Cavani and his teammates are all chasing Champions League glory and still look some way short of achieving it, but other than that there is little left for him to target with Les Parisiens.
PSG's No. 9 has spoken of his desire to return to his native Uruguay in the next few years to try to help an unnamed team to continental success before he retires, and he will have no shortage of suitors if he is made available for transfer by the Ligue 1 leaders at the end of the season.
With UEFA's financial fair play limits to keep in mind and Angel Di Maria playing like he suddenly wants his future to be in Paris, not to mention the Argentina international combining more naturally with Mbappe and Neymar regularly since the start of 2018, you can start to see some sense in the prospects of a summer split.
From Cavani's point of view, leaving on a high must appeal too -- especially as Champions League success is still possible this campaign, even if the second leg against Real will be a massive challenge.
Neymar teed Cavani up nicely for his second goal against Strasbourg but it has been one thing linking up against teams in Ligue 1 and another doing it in Europe and when it has mattered most for PSG.
Failure to deliver in early March against Real in the Champions League could confirm what some are already feeling around the club: We could be into Cavani's final few months in Paris.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.