Manchester United are hopeful Edinson Cavani will have a similar impact to Zlatan Ibrahimovic as they prepare to announce his signing.
Cavani, 33, is due to be confirmed as a United player later today and senior club sources believe Cavani’s stature and record are comparable with his former Paris Saint-Germain teammate Ibrahimovic. United are adamant Cavani’s agent’s fee is significantly lower than the £10million figure that has been touted.
Ibrahimovic was 34 when he joined United on a free after running down his PSG contract in 2016 and scored 28 goals in his sole full season as United won the League Cup and Europa League.
The Swede announced he was joining United the day before the 2016 summer transfer window officially opened whereas Cavani – a free agent since July 1 – is set to be unveiled on deadline day.
Despite his limited English, United view Cavani as a potential leader in the dressing room of a squad with only three outfield players in their 30s and want his expertise to help develop Mason Greenwood and support Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.
United accept the move for Cavani is a pragmatic and opportunistic deal, which is unlikely to quell comparisons with fellow South American striker Radamel Falcao, who joined United on a one-year loan on deadline day in 2014.
Colombian goalscorer Falcao was 29 at the time of his arrival but he had just recovered from rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament and Falcao managed just four goals in a chastening season at Old Trafford.
Former United captain Gary Neville said the Cavani news caused him to have ‘the feeling I had when Falcao signed’ but United feel they are recruiting a proven winner with one of the finest goalscoring records in Europe over the last decade.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the club’s recruitment department see Cavani as a ‘significant addition’ who will add firepower and a different attacking option to their youthful trident of Greenwood, Rashford and Martial.
Cavani is also an early replacement for the near-redundant Odion Ighalo, whose loan from Shanghai Shenhua expires on January 31. Ighalo, 32, was omitted from the second successive Premier League matchday squad against Tottenham.
Despite signing two 30-something strikers on the last day of the last two transfer windows, United claim their core strategy is unchanged and think Cavani is aligned with their recruitment strategy of blending high quality recruits with homegrown talent.
Yet Cavani is a contradiction of United’s preferred profile of permanent signings, which is ostensibly talents aged between 23 and 28. High-level United figures last year derided the possibility of ‘running around desperate for a 43-year-old’ in the transfer market – believed to be a reference to Mario Mandzukic. Mandzukic turned 34 in May and Cavani is 34 in February.