PSG's decision to make Mauro Icardi's loan from Inter permanent means the Argentine's battle with rival striker Edinson Cavani will continue… But which of the two - Cavani in 2018-19 or Icardi in 2019-20 - has the better record?
While Thomas Tuchel put Edinson Cavani at the forefront of PSG's attack in the final weeks of the season, the German coach preferred Mauro Icardi to the Uruguayan legend for most of the season.
In his first season in France, the Argentine scored 12 goals in 20 Ligue 1 Conforama games, compared to Edinson Cavani's four goals in 14 league games. To compare the performances of these two pure centre-forwards, it is more relevant to look at the numbers of the two players when they were the capital club's No1 option in the No9 slot. Who was the better performer? Mauro Icardi last season or Edinson Cavani in the season before that?
More goals for Cavani in 2018-19
Edinson Cavani, who was sustained a hip injury in February 2019, ended the 2018-19 season with 21 league matches, one more than Mauro Icardi in 2019-20, a season cut short by the coronavirus crisis. However, while Cavani was in the starting line-up 95% of the time, Icardi was only in the starting line-up 70% of the time, resulting in a significant difference in playing time (1675 minutes for Cavani versus 1268 for Icardi, a differential of more than 4 games in total).
Edinson Cavani scored 18 goals in 21 games. A total that can be broken down as follows: 12 goals with his right foot, three with his left and three with his head. Mauro Icardi, who scored 12 goals in 20 games, also scored mainly with his right foot, scoring nine goals with his right, two with his left and one with his head.
But, while the Uruguayan scored more goals than the Argentine, the two strikers scored as much as each other in open play (12 goals). The difference was in goals from set-pieces, an area in which Cavani scored six times, including four successful penalties (from five attempts) while Neymar was absent, and in which Icardi bagged no goals.
Better ratio for Icardi
The two players are similar in that they are out-and-out central strikers. They both scored 100% of their goals from inside the box. In the 2018-19 season, Edinson Cavani scored slightly more often than Mauro Icardi did in the 2019-20 season: one goal every 93 minutes versus one goal every 106 minutes. But if you take out the penalties (5 for Cavani, none for Icardi), Mauro Icardi is the more effective: one goal every 106 minutes against one goal every 120 minutes for Cavani.
On the other hand, Edinson Cavani just edges the stats for challenges and dribbles. He won 45% of his challenges in 2018-19 (39% for Icardi this season) and succeeded in 55% of his dribbles (50% for Icardi). While Icardi is less renowned for his depth than Cavani, the Argentine is flagged offside 0.6 times per game (0.5 for Cavani). It is also worth noting that the Argentine earned one penalty last season, compared to two for the Uruguayan in 2018-19.
Icardi more clinical
Former Napoli striker Cavani played more (16 more minutes per game on average) and touched the ball almost twice as many times as Mauro Icardi (27.3 per game compared to 14.6). The number of passes made per game followed this 1:2 ratio (16.7 passes for Cavani, 8.5 for Icardi).
While Cavani has more assists (five compared to two), Icardi played as many passes leading directly to a shot as Cavani (0.6 per game) despite less playing time. Mauro Icardi was also much more precise in his passing: 86% of successful passes against 76% and especially 80% of successful passes in the last 30 meters against 62% for Cavani.
While Edinson Cavani shoots a little more per game than Mauro Icardi (with more playing time), the former Inter striker is much more accurate (62.5% of shots on target versus 49%). And in terms of carpentry, Cavani hit the woodwork four times in 2018-19 while Icardi only did so once in 2019-20.