"I’ve always said that I’m a football student," says the Uruguayan as he looks to give United the benefit of his experience.
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Edinson Cavani missed out as Paris Saint-Germain reached last season's UEFA Champions League final, but the 34-year-old could yet win his first major European title after making it to the UEFA Europa League final with Manchester United.
The Uruguayan striker scored twice in each leg of the semi-final success against Roma to take his tally to 54 in UEFA club competitions, and is hoping to lead by example again in Gdańsk, against a Villarreal side overseen by his one-time coach at Paris, Unai Emery.
On perfecting his craft
Over time, over the years, you can always learn depending on your level of focus and the will you have. You can always improve, you can always prepare yourself better. It's about growing, isn't it? In every aspect: in personal terms, as a human being, in football terms, or in the terms of whatever job you have.
[I've] been playing football for many years, and different styles: Italian football, French football, also when I get called up to play with my national team. You gain some experience that leads you to enjoy it more later on [in your career], to see things you couldn’t before. To value things that you didn't before. That's why I think that life is beautiful because you improve, you grow, you learn how to experience things, to experience every stage of your life, and to do it better every time.
On inspiring younger players
Competing is something that is in your blood, but I also think that it’s something that you can learn; you can learn it over time, little by little, watching your team-mates play with a certain attitude and with an eagerness to compete. I’ve always said that I’m a football student. Throughout my whole career, I’ve tried to learn and absorb positive things that could make me a better player, and a better team-mate, and I try to show that with the team.
Nowadays, I’m the oldest player, the elder statesman in the team, and that’s a great motivation for me. It pushes me during training sessions, it pushes me when I’m about to go out and play a match and compete. So, I try to enjoy it and work hard for my team without thinking all the time: 'I have to set an example.' I think that you set an example with your behaviour, how you compete, doing your best for your team, always being there to train, trying to be the best player in training sessions.
On Villarreal coach Unai Emery
From the moment Unai arrived at Paris, he showed his passion for football. I really liked his way of working; he is a coach who’s going to work a lot and prepare really well for the Europa League final. He’s definitely going to analyse it very well.
I know from my own experience that it’s the small details that determine these kinds of games; they are won in the small aspects, and for that you need to be very focused. You have to play a perfect match. I know that Unai is like that: he’s a hard-working coach. And that is why he has won titles, trophies wherever he’s worked.
On having fans at the final
I’ve always said that football is all about the people who make it happen and experience it with this passion which they give off to you in a stadium. It’s pure passion over the 90 minutes, you know, the connection between the player and the fan. All of these months with no fans has been tough. It’s been a loss to what the essence of football is, and I think the fact that now the fans will be coming back to the stadiums gradually will help a lot, all the more so at a team like Manchester United, which has a fiery and passionate fanbase. I think it’ll go great for them. Let’s hope that everything starts to go back to normal.