News emerged over the weekend that Manchester United were considering a summer move for the prodigious French talent Eduardo Camavinga. However, as speculated, United will only make the move for the youngster if Paul Pogba leaves.
On the eve of France’s recent 7-1 victory in a friendly against Ukraine, Pogba spoke with journalists and reasserted his long-held desire to play for Real Madrid. “Many things have been said. Of course, every footballer would love to play for Real Madrid and would dream about that. It’s a dream of mine, so why not one day? But I’m at Manchester United and I love my club. I play for Manchester United, I want to perform well for them and do everything to get them back to where they deserve to be.”
Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola has been vocal about his client’s desire to leave United. With the additional year triggered on his contract, United may sell Pogba if he continues to dither on the new contract offered. With uncertainty surrounding his future, United have begun to look for a replacement, and there’s no player more befitting of being Pogba’s replacement at United than the coveted Eduardo Camavinga.
All you need to know about Camavinga
Born on 10 November 2002 in a refugee camp in Angola, Camavinga’s parents, originally from Congo DR, moved to Angola in a bid to escape a raging war. The family eventually left for France in 2004 when Camavinga was only a 2-year-old toddler.
Camavinga joined the Rennes youth system at the age of 11 and progressed through the different age groups. He signed his first professional contract on 14 December 2018, at the age of 16 years and one month. In doing so, he became the youngest ever player to sign a professional contract at the club.
His first team debut came in a Ligue-1 tie against Angers on 6 April 2019, a match that ended in a 3-3 draw. At the time, he was only 16 years and 4 months old, which makes him the youngest debutant in the club’s history.
He has since gone on to make 38 appearances for the first team scoring 2 goals. This season, Eduardo Camavinga has made 4 starts and 1 one substitute appearance, has 1 shot on target from a total of 4 shots and has scored 1 goal. He averages 48 passes per match with a pass completion rate of 90%, and has 1 assist. Eduardo Camavinga has received 2 yellow cards and 0 red cards.
Why the hype?
In an age where France brims with several young talents, many claim Camavinga as the most talented midfielder France produced in a long time. This covets a lot of respect as they produced some fine midfielders in recent years.
Clearly possessing abilities that belie his tender age, Camavinga has received a lot of plaudits. “He is someone on a human level who is very well built, intellectually too. He keeps his feet on the ground but remains a very young player, still in development, especially on the muscular level” Rennes manager Julien Stephan said of him.
Welcomed on the International Stage
His first call-up to the French national team came when he replaced Paul Pogba who had contracted the COVID-19 virus in the squad to face Sweden and Croatia in a Nations League double-header and he went on to feature for 27 minutes as a substitute in the 4-2 defeat of Croatia.
However, his full debut came in the 7-1 friendly victory over Ukraine where he opened the scoring with an audacious – albeit fortuitous- overhead kick. French coach Didier Deschamp was cautious in his praise of Camavinga after the match.
“I don’t really want to put him out of the squad or the team considering how he plays. Let’s see, he is still young. I need to manage him like Julien Stephan is managing him at Rennes. He will play every three days soon. He is a very young player with a lot of great skills and huge talent.”
How does Camavinga play?
A pacy and energetic midfielder, Camavinga likes to roam from one flank to the other. He is the focal point of Rennes midfield plays, making runs high up the pitch and drifting back to cover the defenders.
As he showed in the game against PSG last season where he dominated their more established midfield, his positioning and reading of the game are unbelievable for someone so young. He broke their attack and quickly progressed play multiple times during the match, leaving PSG players wondering who the kid was as he ended up with a beautiful assist to Romain Del Castillo.
Who is linked with Camavinga?
United usually struggle against opponents who deploy a pacy double midfield pivot. While at Juventus, Pogba thrived as a left-sided midfielder but has been mostly utilised in central midfield at United. Compelled to assume a slightly more defensive role alongside the ageing Nemanja Matic since Bruno Fernandes joined in January. Despite this, he has improved under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Chased by Real Madrid, Camavinga made the decision to remain at Rennes for at least another season. This is following a historic Champions League qualification for the French side.
Madrid ultimately remain the favourite to sign him. However, United may well make the push in line with the club’s desire to recruit the best young talents on offer. The signing of 11 players who are 18 years old or younger this summer is emblematic of this fact.
Though the transition from France to England is quite demanding as many players have been quick to find out. Camavinga has shown that he is capable of making the jump as proven by the achievements he’s made so far in his fledgling career.
What can he offer United?
He ticks the box of the calibre of player capable of transforming United’s midfield. He is young, talented, impressionable, and capable of becoming a future leader in the team. The fans have been critical of United’s transfer policy in recent years. However, the attempt to sign Camavinga will be viewed as a welcome deviation from the chaos that has greeted our latest recruitments or the attempts to do so.
United’s midfield could do with a player the calibre of Camavinga. Sometimes lacking in invectiveness and grit. Both Pogba and Matic sadly do not contribute much in terms of shielding the defence.
In the 3 matches United played so far this season, Pogba made 5 tackles, with a success rate of 60%. He has made only two clearances, winning six aerial battles and losing another six. Matic on his part has made a measly 4 tackes, 0 clearances, and won just two aerial battles.
In comparison, Camavinga has made 17 tackles, winning 15 of them. He has also recovered an incredible 20 balls as a result of his considerable speed and tackling ability. His aggressive approach stands him in good stead as he relentlessly chases down opponents and quickly closes up gaps; these attributes are sadly a luxury in United’s current midfield.
What has Pogba said about Camavinga?
The man he is touted to replace has had nothing but glowing praise for the youngster. Speaking to journalist after the Croatia game, Pogba described the youngster as ‘a little dancer’.
“It is a pleasure to see him don the shirt. To score after his first starts, that is honestly wonderful. I was truly happy for him. I only wish him the best and much more. He has everything for that. His future is in his hands. He is very at ease, he is a little dancer.” Pogba told reporters, “He makes me think a bit about me. He is not a timid person. It is good, because he is confident. He has confidence in his qualities. He is a very good youngster, I like him enormously.” He added.
In a long overdue attempt to close the gap on Liverpool and Manchester City and return to the force it once was, United need to compete for signings like Camavinga and hope that they develop into top players. Our history is replete with players who became first regulars at a very young age. Ronaldo, Rooney, and De Gea, all became first team stars as teenagers.
A change in direction in terms of recruitment is needed at the club. The signing of Camavinga, as insignificant as it may seem, may just be the right place to start.