Come the 1st of July, Paris Saint-Germain return to life in the unknown. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s contract expires, he officially moves on, and the French champions need to build for a life without him. There is nothing they can do about his exit, but there are some huge decisions for the club to make over the summer.
Since the arrival of owners QSI, PSG have won four league titles, two quadruples and swept aside every challenge that Ligue 1 has had to offer. However, in their first season – we’ll call this the B.Z era, Before Zlatan – they lost the title to Montpellier, sacking Antoine Kombouare and bringing in Carlo Ancelotti while they were top of the league.
Now, for the 2016/17 campaign, PSG will have to win their first sans Zlatan Ligue 1 title.
There is no doubt that they should. They have all the talent you would want, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy or as straightforward as the campaign that has just finished.
"The supremacy of PSG is set up to last but they have lost an important player in Ibrahimovic and key players like [midfielder Thiago] Motta are older," Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger told French newspaper 20Minutes.
"There are budding teams like Lyon. You have the impression that if Lyon start well, they can be closer. PSG will still be favourites next year but I'd say there's a small chance that Lyon could be right on their heels."
Linked with moves for Neymar, Alvaro Morata, Gonzalo Higuaín and every other fancied No.9 in world football, PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi poured cold water on those moves by claiming that the club already has Zlatan’s replacement.
"Don't forget that we already have a great attacker at the club - Edinson Cavani," Al-Khelaifi told RMC, when asked who could replace the talismanic Swede.
This was met with mixed emotions within PSG fans. On one hand, the Uruguayan scored 19 league goals, but it’s his overall contribution and his disappointing performances that have raised eyebrows.
Ever since his arrival from Napoli, El Matador has never quite looked like the same ruthless finisher. He may have spent too much time in Zlatan’s shadow. There is no guarantee that he can rediscover that form when handed the keys to the city.
It makes perfect sense to give him the opportunity. Signing a centre-forward would put the nail in Cavani’s coffin. You are basically telling him that he isn’t good enough to spearhead this club’s attack.
"I'm not the successor of anyone," he told Italian journalists after the Coupe de France win over Marseille. "I'm Edinson Cavani. Ibrahimovic is Ibrahimovic.
"I'm here to give the best of myself, like I've done since the first day I arrived here."
The problem is, his best just isn’t good enough to lift this club all the way to the Champions League. Not on his own anyway.
Cavani will be linked with moves away from the club this summer. If Higuaín leaves the Stadio San Paolo, the 29-year-old will be an obvious replacement. Juventus are reportedly interested, plus, Arsenal, Chelsea, even Real and Atletico Madrid.
PSG paid €64 million to lure him from Serie A. Three years later, if they received a reasonable offer for the Uruguayan, there would certainly be a temptation to listen. Yet, that would only bring more problems. The club would then be tasked with replacing both Cavani and Zlatan in the same summer.
No matter your opinion on either player, finding players that could come in and instantly provide 57 goals and 18 assists is no easy task. Al Khelaifi will open his chequebook and splash the cash, but you also have to convince top players that Ligue 1 is for them – that is not an easy sell.
Next season, the smart move would be to use Cavani as the No.9, but they do need someone to replace Ibrahimovic. Not as the main goal scorer, but as the face of the club. They need a Cristiano Ronaldo or an Eden Hazard, someone that would play on the wing, but become the focal point of the attack.
Cavani can then get on with putting the ball in the back of the net. He may need more chances than you would hope, but he can still get that done.
This will be a huge 12 months for the Parisians. They need to show that they are still a big club A.Z (After Zlatan) and Cavani has to prove that he is still a wild predator and not a domesticated house pet.
Read more from Andrew Gibney