France knows how to produce a good central midfield. Indeed, the land of Zinedine Zidane, Patrick Vieira and Paul Pogba boasts a strong track record of cultivating talents that can effortlessly control the centre of a football pitch and Eduardo Camavinga is seemingly next off the production line.
For someone so young, the 18-year-old has already played a remarkable amount of top level football. At just 16, Camavinga became Rennes’ youngest ever first team figure and quickly showed he wasn’t there just to bring down the average age of the Ligue 1 club’s squad. In fact, it wasn’t long until he was their best player.
A Man of the Match display against Paris Saint-German just months after his senior debut underlined Camavinga’s potential and a call-up to the French national team soon followed, becoming the youngest player to have received a Les Blues call-up since the 1930s. By coming off the bench in a Nations League win over Croatia, Camavinga became France’s youngest ever first team player since 1914.
Camavinga has grown accustomed to breaking levels. He is still only 18, but is completing his third season as a senior professional. It’s little wonder then that several of Europe’s biggest clubs have been linked with the central midfielder. Arsenal, Liverpool and Real Madrid have, at one point or another, weighed up an offer.
He might have been born in Angola, but Camavinga has all the markings of an archetypal French midfielder. The teenager is technically excellent on the ball, possessing the natural talent to play the possession-heavy modern game. However, his physical attributes also mean he can cover large areas of the pitch.
The Rennes teenager is the embodiment of the modern midfielder. He is a two-way operator in that he is just as comfortable protecting his own goal as he is attacking the oppositions. Camavinga has great spatial and positional awareness, involving himself in his team’s build-up play as often as possible.
All these qualities make Camavinga an incredibly valuable prospect. He is a central pass-master, setting the tempo of Rennes’ play from a deep role in the middle of the pitch, and a structural pillar, breaking up opposition moves when he is required to. In a sport where midfielders are increasingly split up into various roles and duties, Camavinga is a rarity - he can do it all.
Any club that signs Camavinga this summer would make a statement of intent about their future with the young French international sure to be a superstar for years to come. There isn’t another player in the game like him, with his combination of qualities placing him somewhere between Vieira and Blaise Matuidi.
Camavinga, valued at £54m, would improve the squad of any club, with Arsenal most recently reported to be interested in the 18-year-old. Mikel Arteta needs a two-way midfielder in this mould and so it would be understandable if the Gunners make Camavinga their number one target for the summer window.
Liverpool have also been linked, although it’s harder to envisage where Camavinga would fit into a midfield unit that already boasts Thiago Alcantara, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita. Competition would be stiff at Real Madrid too, but the lure of Zidane as Camavinga’s countryman would surely be strong.
Manchester United have the clearest need for a midfielder like Camavinga. His pitch coverage and technical ability would mean Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be able to play just one player at the base of his midfield rather than two, as he currently does with Fred and Scott McTominay. This would free up a place in his team.
Wherever Camavinga ends up, whether it’s England, Spain or somewhere else, he is destined to excel. In France, the teenager is widely seen as the next best midfielder in the world. Given how many exceptional players in the position the country has produced in the past, we should probably trust their judgement.
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