A few weeks ago, the pair of longtime teammates would have never thought that the next time they’d met would be on opposing sides of a big Premier League match. Edinson Cavani and Thiago Silva have left both Paris and Paris Saint-Germain behind them, leaving in a bit of an acrimonious way for the former, and a disappointing one for the later. On Saturday, they should face each other on either side of the Manchester United-Chelsea divide.
For PSG fans, it will feel strange to see them in different shirts. Silva, 36, has already played four games with the Blues but after eight great years in the French capital, it’s still difficult to believe that he’s no longer the Ligue 1 champions’ captain. Cavani, 33, missed the trip to Paris with United so he could keep training in Manchester and be available for this huge game. He trained really well all week and could make his United debut this Saturday at Old Trafford, especially with Anthony Martial still suspended following his red card in the 6-1 defeat vs. Tottenham.
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Last weekend was special for Cavani. For only the fourth time since he moved to Europe in 2007, he trained with a new team. After seven seasons in Paris with PSG, four in Palermo and two at Napoli, he’s finally in Manchester after a summer of searching for a new club. And for the first time since early March, he was back in a dressing room, mixing with a squad, talking to teammates, joking and getting ready to play football again.
It had been a long time coming, too. Over the past seven months, the Uruguayan star kept himself fit and ready either at his huge property in Salto, where he is from, or in Paris. He worked alone, with a conditioning coach or with friends, and his fitness levels are pretty good according to his entourage. Yet he’s not played competitive football for seven months.
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Cavani deserved a better conclusion in Paris. The Uruguayan striker is synonymous of PSG’s greatest era and yet, he’s not synonymous of the greatest achievement of this generation of players: the 2020 Champions League final. “Edi,” still bitter that his deal (which expired in June) was not extended despite him wanting to stay, refused to stay at the club for the conclusion of the European season.
Some fans didn’t forgive him. Others didn’t like the fact that although he left the club on June 30, he waited until September to say a proper goodbye to them, via social media, but having moved on, the 33-year old would love to be involved on Saturday. His last game was his 301st and last appearance for PSG, against Borussia Dortmund on March 11. He is, and might always be, the club’s top scorer, with 200 goals in 301 games in all competitions across seven glittering seasons. There was his attitude, his work rate, his famous goal celebration. But above the goals, there was his incredible mentality and his love for the club and for the supporters.
Silva, left, and Cavani, right, won plenty of trophies together at Paris Saint-Germain, but Saturday could mark a first for them on opposing sides of the Chelsea and Manchester United divide. Jeroen Meuwsen/Soccrates/Getty Images
Thiago Silva also had a very strong relationship with PSG’s fan base, arguably more than even Cavani. The Brazilian defender and his family adopted Paris as their home. They became French citizens, one of his sons was born there and, it is no secret, he would have loved to stay a bit longer at the club. Only it was a wish not shared by Leonardo, PSG’s sporting director. The Brazilian was disappointed and didn’t like the way he was treated, but to his credit, he moved on quickly. Now, he is Blue — a different shade of blue, mind you — and he’s adapting quickly to this next chapter of his life and career. The Silvas are happy in London — to borrow a phrase from Isabelle, Thiago’s wife, they’ve fallen in love with their new surroundings.
On the pitch, Thiago Silva has already become indispensable for Frank Lampard. When they spoke prior to him joining Chelsea, Lampard told Silva that he wanted him to be his leader, to lead by example with his experience and help the younger players. This is what he is doing. His Premier League debut at West Bromwich was tough — he made one crucial error that helped the Baggies race to a 3-0 lead — but since that day, Chelsea have kept two clean sheets in the two games he played in, at home against Crystal Palace in the Premier League (4-0) and in the Champions League against Sevilla (0-0).
The Brazilian is still not at his best and is still getting to know his new teammates. He’s working on building his relationship with the likes of Kurt Zouma and Edouard Mendy, talking to them regularly outside of training. He’s also very close to Cesar Azpilicueta, and has been really impressed by the talent of Reece James.
For his first big encounter in England, Silva’s really hoping that he will face Cavani. There will certainly be no secret between them. They have faced each other a million times at training. They know each other’s weaknesses better than anyone else and after the game on Saturday, they will surely spend time catching up on each other’s fresh starts, or reminiscing about the old days.
Overall, the fans will always have great memories of Cavani and of Silva despite any lingering unhappiness over their exits. They will probably watch Man United vs. Chelsea on Saturday with interest, and maybe a little tear in their eyes, too.