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Eduardo Camavinga: The next Real Madrid midfield maestro

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As Paris Saint-Germain geared up for the second gameweek of the 2019/20 Ligue 1 season, Thomas Tuchel was not quite ready for what the game had in store for him.

With Neymar injured, Kylian Mbappe lined up alongside Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria to take on Stade Rennais and their sturdy five-man defence. Julian Draxler spearheaded the midfield as the makeshift no. 10, but all his efforts that day were undone by a 16-year-old.

Making only his 10th appearance as a professional footballer, Eduardo Camavinga started for Rennais as the defensive midfielder and gave the Ligue 1 champions a run for their money.

He registered an assist in the 2-1 home win, but his defining moments came as he showed his command on and off the ball. In almost Sergio Busquets-style fashion, the Frenchman turned and twisted his way around Marco Verratti and Marquinhos and ended the game-winning six fouls.

16-year-old against the best team in the country? No problem. (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images)

Further, Camavinga displayed elite ball retention, completing 97.6% of his attempted passes (40/41), 100% of his long passes (3/3), and losing the ball just thrice.

He also made quite the defensive impact as well, screening his defenders to perfection. He ran across to mark Draxler, Mbappe, and often Cavani brilliantly and also won three tackles.

Eventually, he was awarded Man of the Match for his efforts, and the hype of his performance flooded social media as one would expect it to.

“It was one of my first games as a professional,” he said in an exclusive interview with Onefootball. “During the week with Stade Rennais we prepared well to play against PSG.”

What made this game even more special for Camavinga was that it was redemption. A few weeks earlier, the two sides met in the Trophee des Champions final, and the French teenager had a nightmare dealing with Pablo Sarabia, Mbappe, and Di Maria. He was dribbled past thrice and was completely shut down by PSG’s midfield.

He got over both games quickly, though, unlike what one would expect from a teenager playing against the biggest club in the country.

“The next day, others told me, ‘What you did was crazy.’ But at the time, I didn’t realise what I had done. It’s true that in regards to other people, this game changed the way I was seen,” Camavinga said, speaking about his MOTM performance.

Then, as I said, it’s a game like any other. Of course, I had a big game, but that’s not something you can put in your head because after there are other matches, and you have to keep performing.”

That was just the start of his incredible season, though. Over the 2019/20 campaign, Camavinga was dispossessed just 1.24 times per 90, while averaging 1.28 shot-creating actions, primarily from defensive midfield.

A starter in the Rennes set-up that was playing in the Europa League in the 2020/21 season, and already in the mix with the French national team, 18-year-old Camavinga was carrying a hefty price tag.

Camavinga was a protagonist in both his teams by 2020. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

While not nearly in as much spotlight, he quietly had a superb 2020/21 season playing in a more advanced, ball-winner position.

In 35 appearances through the league season, Camavinga averaged 4.91 tackles + interceptions. He also developed a knack for carrying the ball, registering an impressive 4,569 yards of progressive distance – 23rd best in the league.

While Rennais could not retain their podium finish this season, Camavinga’s versatility and prowess on both ends of the pitch was sure to attract a ton of suitors, and with it, a gold suitcase of cash for the team.

PSG were said to be circling the midfielder for a few months before Real Madrid eventually decided to shell out €40 million (including add-ons) on the last day of the summer transfer window.

Talking about Madrid’s interest in him, and his reaction to the same, Camavinga said:

“The first time we heard that Real Madrid were after us… Or should I say after me! My agent came to my house, towards the end of the transfer window. My parents and I didn’t necessarily jump for joy, because we knew that in the world of football, nothing is certain, until it is. So we calmed our joy. But afterwards, when we saw that it was for sure, we jumped for joy.”

“It’s a club that everyone would like to play for. Afterwards, for sure that, from the moment you sign, you know you enter another dimension,” he added.

Camavinga arrived in Madrid with a reputation, sure, but with Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Casemiro at the helm in midfield and Federico Valverde as the first-choice backup, getting game-time would not be easy. Carlo Ancelotti is not a coach who rotates his team an awful lot, either.

The weight of the Real Madrid badge is very heavy. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Eventually, he got to make his debut in gameweek 4, coming off the bench to replace Hazard. With the game stuck at 3-2 in favour of Los Blancos, the Frenchman was expected to add defensive depth and carefully steer the game home.

However, within six minutes, Camavinga made a brilliantly-timed run into the box, converting a rebounded shot from Modric. Three days later, he assisted the only goal in a 1-0 win against Inter Milan. A goal and assist within his first two appearances for the biggest club in the world like it was nothing. Pressure? Never heard of her.

“Pressure? No, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s pressure. But it’s something that boosts you, because you know what you’re getting into, a club that has won 13 Champions Leagues. And you know the Champions League, it is a club goal.”

Ancelotti, despite not having Camavinga among his first-choice midfield trident, has used him to great impact. At times, he is employed to add legs to an otherwise static midfield, and at others, to provide a layer of protection and control.

In fact, an example of each can be seen in his last two games — vs Real Sociedad, and Paris Saint-Germain.

In the Sociedad game, Camavinga started on the left of the midfield trio in a traditional 8 role. He completed 3/3 of his long passes, made three progressive carries, and was on the receiving end of seven progressive passes through the 90.

His passing network is indicative of his incredible work rate in that game, too, with passes from multiple areas in all directions.

Camavinga passing network vs Real Sociedad.

Camavinga stuck to his roots and did not unnecessarily try to progress the ball in the final third when there were better options available. He dropped deep to collect the ball and start moves like Modric and Kroos do, and also covered for Ferland Mendy and Daniel Caravajal during defensive transitions.

“There’s Casemiro playing here, and I’m trying to learn a lot from him tactically. Before games, when I start, Casemiro tells me to play simply, and to be efficient,” Cavavinga said.

“Then there is Luka and Toni. I learn from the trio, because I could play in all positions in midfield, and I have to learn from everyone to be ready when the coach puts me on the pitch.”

The equaliser from outside the box was the icing on the cake, sure, but it was 90 minutes of sensational control from the 19-year-old.

The former Rennais-prodigy was rewarded with a second-half appearance against PSG in the Champions League but was brought on as a screening midfielder.

Still 0-1 in favour of the visitors by that point, it might have been easy to miss Camavinga’s impact in those 33 minutes with Karim Benzema and Modric running the show.

But he was crucial as Madrid searched to regain control, completing all but one of his passes and adding a much-needed holding presence to Madrid’s team.

Camavinga sat as the anchor and dictated the circulation of the blow like a seasoned veteran. He made sure the ball switched flanks constantly, and his passing distance of 392 (in 33 minutes!) proves the same. Not to forget that five of his 13 completed passes travelled over 30 yards.

Camavinga passing network vs PSG.

Even though game-time has been far and few in between for Camavinga this season, his ability is not in doubt. In fact, he has shown that there is a lot more he can do than what was initially believed.

For example, he is among the 90th percentile for touches in the penalty area compared to positional peers this season. He was in the 63rd percentile in the same metric last season.

Moreover, his output – or the chances of it – are on the rise now. Camavinga sits at the 70th percentile for xG + xA in 2021/22 vs the 45th percentile in 2020/21.

While his progressive carries and defensive actions have decreased (partly due to playing in advanced positions much more), other statistics like pressures (98th percentile now vs the 82nd last season) have risen.

Camavinga, 2020/21, Stade Rennais.
Camavinga, 2021/22, Real Madrid.

Camavinga is the real deal, and it is incredible that at 19, he is already knocking at the door of one of the greatest midfield trios ever. He has the composure, tactical understanding, and drive to become the next Real Madrid great. It will happen with time, and the world will be his witness.

“I hope I’ll be remembered as a person who does not give up, who is always there. A good person, someone who won a lot of trophies. A very good footballer, a footballer who played with love for the shirt, and who scored a lot of goals and got many assists.”

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Features

Euro 2024: Rating every Real Madrid player’s performance at the tournament

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Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images

The UEFA Euro 2024 came to an end last night with Spain being crowned the champions of Europe thanks to a 2-1 victory over England in Berlin.

Considering how well La Roja played throughout the tournament and their performance in the finals on Sunday night, they were the deserved winners of the trophy.

With Spain lifting the trophy, Real Madrid veteran defender Dani Carvajal added another title to his already successful campaign finishing 2023/24 as a La Liga, Champions League, and EURO winner.

Nacho and Joselu, who were still contracted with Real Madrid when the Euro started, joined Carvajal on that list while Jude Bellingham finished on the losing side.

Real Madrid had a total of 13 players representing them at the Euros in Germany and not all managed to make a solid impression. Here are how the Merengues’ stars fared at the European Championships.

Spain

Dani Carvajal: 8/10

The Spanish right-back was one of the stars of the show at the Euros, playing an integral role in La Roja’s success. Carvajal kicked off his first Euro with a goal in the opening game against Croatia and continued to be a reliable player for Spain both in defence and attack.

Carvajal forged a strong partnership with Barcelona’s Lamine Yamal on the right flank and even played a key role in the team’s opening goal against England in the final.

Nacho: 6/10

Technically no longer a Real Madrid player, Nacho was still contracted with the club when the Euros kicked off. Starting in the opener against Croatia, he helped Spain to a clean sheet against Croatia.

The veteran defender also put in solid shifts in the quarter-final and semi-final ties against Germany and France, respectively and helped see out the game against England last night.

Joselu: N/A

Behind the likes of Alvaro Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal in the pecking order, Joselu, who left Real Madrid at the end of June, played just 90 minutes across two games.

England

Jude Bellingham: 6.5/10

Failed to deliver. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Having enjoyed a dream season with Real Madrid, Jude Bellingham was unable to replicate those performances for England.

While he did score two crucial goals, including a stunning bicycle kick to keep his team alive against Slovakia, and assisted Cole Palmer’s strike in the finals, his overall display left a lot to be desired.

France

Kylian Mbappe: 6/10

Real Madrid’s newest acquisition, all eyes were on Mbappe heading into the Euros. And even though France made it as far as the semi-finals, the 25-year-old failed to live up to the expectations with a nose injury impacting his displays.

Mbappe finished the tournament with a solitary goal and two assists, but as he admitted after the defeat to Spain, his Euro will go down as a failure.

Aurelien Tchouameni: 6/10

Making a return from injury during the tournament, the Real Madrid midfielder was a solid presence in the centre of the park for France alongside N’Golo Kante without really standing out a great deal.

The 24-year-old provided strength and stability in midfield for Les Bleus and even tried to get upfield in matches. But his shooting from distance was way off the mark.

Not up to the mark. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Eduardo Camavinga: 5/10

Starting just one of France’s six games and featuring as a substitute in three more, Eduardo Camavinga was not a major presence for Didier Deschamps’ side at the Euros which came as a surprise.

The Real Madrid starlet did show glimpses of quality when he did get a chance but not enough for him to make an impact.

Ferland Mendy: N/A

Having made a return to the France setup for the first time since 2022, Mendy did not play a single minute at the Euros, with former Real Madrid left-back, Theo Hernandez being preferred by the manager.

Germany

Antonio Rudiger: 7/10

Carrying on from where he left off for Real Madrid, Rudiger was a solid presence at the heart of the German defence at the Euros in his homeland.

Came up against some tricky forwards throughout the hosts’ quarterfinal run but did well to hold his own, but was guilty of losing Mikel Merino for Spain’s goal that eliminated Germany.

Toni Kroos: 6.5/10

It was not a fairytale ending for Kroos, who waved goodbye to his international career with a forgettable display against Spain during which he could have been easily sent off for the array of fouls he committed.

Prior to that, however, Kroos was instrumental for Germany in their run until the quarterfinals, stringing play together from the centre of the park.

Turkey

Arda Guler: 7/10

Arda Guler made a good impression at the Euros. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

One of the breakout stars of the Euros, Arda Guler showcased his talent and potential, helping Turkey to the quarterfinals of the tournament.

The 19-year-old started off with a wonder-goal against Georgia and also added two assists to his tally in his first major tournament, following in the footsteps of greats like Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney. A bright future awaits.

Croatia

Luka Modric: 6/10

Unlike recent years, Luka Modric’s Croatia were unable to get past the group stages, with the veteran midfielder finishing the tournament with a goal from under 240 minutes.

Ukraine

Andriy Lunin: 2/10

Started the tournament as Ukraine’s No. 1 against Romania but made costly errors that saw him lose his place in the starting XI. Did not feature again after the opener as his team crashed out of the group stages.

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