Eduardo Camavinga: Who is Real Madrid’s £ 27million French prodigy?

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In April 2019, Camavinga became Rennes’ youngest debutant at 16 years and four months

It takes a special talent to stand out as a young player in France considering it’s the country’s most successful era to produce stars in a generation – but Eduardo Camavinga has done it.

And for this gifted teenager, it was simplicity rather than the spectacular that was the key to his rise.

The former refugee of Angolan origin, who arrived in France at the age of two, settled in the Rennes first team at the age of 16 as if he had been there for years.

Now, just 18, he’s at Real Madrid – one of the biggest clubs in the world – after a summer move of £ 27million.

“When he plays he smiles”

“He is a team player and an elegant player,” France Under-19 coach Landry Chauvin, who worked with Camavinga for Rennes youth, told BBC Sport. “He is not an individual or a soloist, he respects the collective.

“He’s playing with his head held high. He is always focused on the position of his teammates. When he plays, he smiles.

“When they make their professional debut a lot of young players think they are here, so they complicate things. Eduardo is one of those people who kept it simple because he’s so smart.”

After exploding onto the Ligue 1 scene, the midfielder became France’s youngest senior international since 1914 when he made his Les Bleus debut against Croatia in the Nations League in September 2020 – and scored his first goal a month later in the 7-1 friendly. defeat Ukraine.

As interest in him and speculation around him grew – with Europe’s top clubs watching his contract end – these distractions took an impact and his performances began to decline.

“He was starting to fall from Rennes’ starting lineup last season,” said French football expert Robin Bairner.

“Even at the start of this year he did not play at his best. He started the opener of the season but was substituted and heavily criticized for his performance. He has been a substitute ever since.

“Although I think he has the capacity to play for Real Madrid, it’s a very difficult time to go. With his form and his confidence, it will be difficult for him to fit into the squad. fans can turn on you if they expect you to be world class and fight. “

“We must give him time,” said Chauvin. “He had a lot of criticism in France, but you have to let him work, step by step. It is normal that his second season is more difficult.”

“Real Madrid is a club where there is no time”

Given Real Madrid’s reputation for demanding instant success and buying off-the-shelf, hyper-marketable superstars – they tried and failed to sign Paris St-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe this summer – it is feared that Camavinga is swallowed up by the pressure.

“If you look at Madrid’s recent signings – with the exception of Mbappe’s signing attempts – like Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo, there has been a shift in policy towards players like Camavinga,” football journalist Sid Lowe said. based in Spain for The Guardian.

“They are aware of a change in the market and it is a response to the new economic reality: to seek out the players who will potentially be the best players in the world, rather than they already are. In that sense, Camavinga agrees .

“The new policy goes hand in hand with greater patience and an awareness that you don’t need to pass the players on immediately. That said, Real Madrid are a club where, by definition, there is no time.

“I don’t think anyone really expects Camavinga to be a starter this year, next year or maybe the year after.”

Madrid’s record with youngsters does not seem conducive to helping a player like Camavinga shine. Academy graduates rarely become first-team regulars, and previous signings of his ilk – such as Martin Odegaard and Dani Ceballos – have been sent on loan, forgotten and sent too far up the pecking order to succeed.

“It all depends on how hard Camavinga is in a hurry,” Lowe adds. “I think it’s very easy to say ‘Florentino Perez wants the stars’, but part of the conversation when Carlo Ancelotti returned was ‘it’s your job to make Vinicius and Rodrygo this next generation of great players’ .

“I think Florentino would much prefer the team star to be Vinicius than (Gareth) Bale. While everyone wants results, that is not incompatible with giving Camavinga minutes.”

“He’s a complete midfielder”

With decorated central midfielders Luka Modric and Toni Kroos coming towards the end of their careers, Camavinga has an obvious path in the squad in the near future and Bairner believes he has the attributes to be successful in any role. .

“There has been a lot of talk about a change of position from six to eight. His game cannot be cataloged,” he said. “He can do a little bit of anything and is a complete midfielder. He has played almost 40 first-team games and has only scored one goal. He operates in a deep end of the pitch and does a lot of work. defensive.”

“Eduardo is unique,” ​​adds Chauvin. “It’s impossible to compare him to anyone; left foot, box-to-box and a modern midfielder. We can no longer have a defensive midfielder, an attacking midfielder and a box-to-box; we have to have three players who can do all the roles in a 4-3-3, that’s what Eduardo can do.

“At first he will observe how Modric and Kroos play, then he will start playing himself. At the end of the season he will be indispensable. In the next three years he will be one of the best players in the world.”

There is naturally pressure on Camavinga to prove he is worth his high transfer fees, but there is arguably just as much pressure on Real Madrid to make this move work.

In the absence of big signings and a manager known as a fine and understanding coach, the conditions may well be right for this precocious teenager to thrive.

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