Since forming part of the Uruguay squad that finished fourth at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, Edinson Cavani has barely been out of the limelight. El Matador went on to enjoy a magnificent season with Napoli, scoring 26 Serie A goals to finish just two behind league capocannonieri Antonio Di Natale. And to cap it all, he has also became a father for the first time.
Currently preparing for Uruguay’s 2011 Copa America debut against Peru on tonight, Cavani spoke to FIFA.com about La Celeste’s chances of success in the competition, his majestic club form and the trials of fatherhood.
FIFA.com: You became a father for the first time six months ago. Which is harder, changing a nappy or scoring a penalty?
Edinson Cavani: (Laughs) I think it’s harder to score a penalty. You make mistakes when you’re changing your child’s nappy but you can always learn with time. And in football you can make history when you take a penalty. They’re different duties but I try and do both the best I can.
Has becoming a father had any impact on your game?
A lot. We’d been wanting to have a baby for a long time, but God has everything under control and it finally arrived at a very special point of my career as a footballer and of our lives as a couple. Having him around doesn’t stop us from doing anything and we try to make time for us to be on our own, although we also take him with us so we can share things together. We brought him into the world and he has every right to be with his daddy.
According to the old Spanish saying, a son brings a loaf of bread under his arm, but in your case he’s also brought goals.
(Laughs) That’s true, though to be honest he’s actually brought me peace of mind and belief. I’m not just an individual any more. I’ve got a family and that’s given me more confidence in my work. I found out my wife was pregnant just after the World Cup and just before my move to Napoli, which is when I started to get the goals that had eluded me in South Africa.
You didn’t play in your natural centre-forward position in South Africa and you scored just the one goal. Do you not think that might have helped you become a better player?
There’s no doubt it’s had something to do with it, and not just in the tactical side of my game. In a World Cup you come up against the best players in the game and it gives you a different type of experience. I think it gave all of us peace of mind and belief, not just me. It gave us the belief that each and every one of us, as the Uruguay team, are up there with the best. And that’s definitely helped me make better decisions in front of goal.
How much were you surprised by all the goals you scored in Italy?
You always try to finish a year or a season off in the best way possible because you never know what’s around the corner. I didn’t expect things to work out so quickly but for some reason they did. At the end of the day I think it all came about because I worked hard and stuck at it.
You just missed out on being top scorer in Serie A. Are you disappointed about that?
I don’t usually have regrets, and that’s because I always try to do my best whether it’s on or off the pitch. As long as I’ve done all I can, then I’m never hard on myself. I learned an important lesson when I got sent off and missed three games, which may well have stopped me from finishing as leading goalscorer. It happened for a reason and I’ve learned my lesson.
The Napoli fans are very passionate and it didn’t take them long to dedicate a song to you. What’s it like to have them behind you?
(Laughs) It’s like when someone writes you a poem, and they show you all this love and affection. It can be difficult sometimes because you can get carried away with it. You try to stay grounded, though, and not get big-headed. I’m very happy with everything that Naples and its people have given me, and that’s why we’ll be there again next year.
Sky blue seems to be your colour. First Uruguay, now Napoli and there are even rumours about Manchester City.
That’s true. I’m a believer and all these things do seem like messages. They’re just coincidences though.
Do you feel Uruguay are among the favourites to win the Copa America?
There are no such thing as favourites at competitions like the Copa America and the World Cup. When you’ve got teams taking their best players and they’re in great form it’s impossible to pick a favourite. In domestic leagues the big teams are under the obligation to win and they can take their time and buy the players they need. But in national team competitions you only start to see who the favourites are after a few games.
Does finishing fourth in South Africa put extra pressure on you here?
No. The friendlies showed that Uruguay are still playing with the same intensity we had before and during the World Cup. The fans have seen that you can lose to Estonia and still beat Ireland, that you can beat the Netherlands and lose to Germany. We’ve prepared well but we’ll see what we’re capable of once we’ve played a few matches.