- Associated Press - Friday, December 2, 2016

PARIS (AP) - Used to playing second fiddle to Zlatan Ibrahimovic for years, Edinson Cavani is blossoming as a great soloist for Paris Saint-Germain.

Criticized and mocked for his profligacy not so long ago, the Uruguay striker has stepped into shoes his detractors thought were too large for him to fill.

Since Ibrahimovic left for the English Premier League after last season, Cavani has scored 19 goals in all competitions in the space of four months.

This week, he became only the fourth PSG player to reach 100 goals for the club, joining Dominique Rocheteau after scoring from the spot in a 2-0 win over Angers. Only Pedro Miguel Pauleta (109) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (156) have a better record.

“I expect him to put in the best season of his career,” PSG coach Unai Emery said. “I want that from him. If Cavani has his best season then that will be good for the team. I want players to progress. He works hard to do his best for the team and for himself.”

Before Ibrahimovic joined Manchester United, Cavani was in the Swede’s imposing shadow.

He arrived at the club in 2013 for a reported 64 million euros fee and struggled to adapt to former PSG coach Laurent Blanc’s 4-3-3 formation. With Ibrahimovic positioned in a central role, Cavani was forced to change position and played on the wing.

That affected his performances, and the former Serie A leading scorer complained about it without much success.

Cavanai’s patience is ultimately paying off. With Ibrahimovic gone, Cavani is still squandering chances. But compared to the number of occasions he helps create with his relentless efforts in the box and his natural sense for goal, PSG has not lost anything with Ibrahimovic’s departure.

Cavani’s 14 league goals in 13 appearances have led the defending champions to second place in the standings ahead of Saturday’s trip to Montpellier, the last team to be crowned before PSG’s four consecutive titles.

He also netted five goals in the Champions League as PSG qualified for the last 16 from a group containing Arsenal. In September, he scored PSG’s fastest ever Champions League goal after 44 seconds against Arsenal.

Cavani is under contract with PSG until 2018. Without serious competition up front, it does not sound unrealistic to imagine him breaking PSG’s goals record.

“I’m thinking about the team and thinking about myself,” he said. “The rest belongs to the future. The most important thing is that we win together and lift trophies. A striker lives for goals and, for me, scoring is everything.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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