Naples' New Year celebrations have stretched into a second week after Edinson Cavani's seventh hat-trick for SSC Napoli thrust the Partenopei into third in Serie A, and left coach Walter Mazzarri to conclude: "He was stunning."
The 25-year-old Uruguay striker scored his first against AS Roma on Sunday after just four minutes at the San Paolo Stadium, finishing from Goran Pandev's assist, and the FYROM forward set up two more goals for his strike partner after the break. Osvaldo's goal for Roma was of little consequence, but while Christian Maggio's last-minute strike confirmed a 4-1 win, it did not deflect the attention away from Cavani.
"His performances should earn him a Golden Ball," said Roma's general manager Franco Baldini after the game, adding: "It is not just the fact that Cavani scored three goals, but that he was able to neutralise Daniele De Rossi for the whole game." Napoli's president, meanwhile, said that he had received a €55m offer for the Urugayan which he passed up, despite the economic crisis. "I rejected it, and it was the right choice because he's an absolute champion," Aurelio De Laurentiis said
It was the seventh time since joining Napoli from US Città di Palermo in 2010 that Cavani walked off the pitch with the match ball as a souvenir, but the striker – born on St Valentine's Day – insists that the scoreline mattered more than his performance. "The table is important but I think that this result was even more important for our morale," he explained. "After a couple of bad results, everybody started saying we had collapsed, but tonight we proved our professionalism on the pitch, and I think that this group of players deserves to fight for titles."
'El Matador' is Serie A's top scorer with 16 goals in as many games, and also leads the rankings in the UEFA Europa League with seven strikes in five group stage fixtures. "The Champions League could be our target, but there is the whole second half of the season to play, and we must try to keep calm, keep our heads down and keep going," said Cavani, who has scored 19 goals in his last 14 games for club and country. "My aim this season is to take Napoli as far as possible and achieve the targets this club has set."
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