When Eduardo Camavinga was substituted on for Eden Hazard in Real Madrid’s La Liga match versus Celta Vigo, the budding career of the Frenchman went up another notch.
Scoring a matter of minutes into his debut for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, Camavinga’s label as one of the most exciting youngsters in European Football was beginning to strengthen further. Tapping in a rebound, the French wonderkid announced himself as one to watch for Los Blancos this season and beyond.
But, where did it all begin for the kid Real Madrid gambled on from Rennes? Born in a refugee camp, Eduardo has never had it easy. Of Angolan origin, Camavinga’s family fled the aforementioned African nation in order to gain safety as refugees. Moving to France at the age of 2, Camavinga’s national status lies with the nation his family adopted as migrants all that time ago. France was now their home, and France would present Camavinga with the platform to showcase his footballing talent. Still, the hardship hadn’t been left behind when moving far away from conflict.
At the age of 11, around the same time Camavinga was bursting through in the youth set-up at Rennes, his family home burnt down and destroyed most of what his parents had accumulated since becoming French citizens. These hardships, alongside a dogged determination to succeed, spurred the young French footballer into pursuing his dreams. Likewise, experiencing such hardships matured Camavinga and enabled him to make great strides into men’s football still as a teenager.
Camavinga would sign his first professional contract five years after his family home was burnt down, beginning a personal ascent for the Angolan born midfielder. At the age of just 16, Eduardo became Stade Rennais’ youngest ever professional footballer for the club. Impressing for the Ligue 1 side at B Team level, it wouldn’t be long until Camavinga was propelled to the first team still only as a teenager.
At 16 years and 4 months old, the French wonderkid announced himself in the first team fold against Angers – handed a moment to shine in the first team set-up by then Rennes’ manager Julien Stephan. Camavinga would take this opportunity with both hands, cementing himself as a star even when still showing up to matches maturing from boy to man. His performances in a Stade Rennais’ shirt didn’t make his age obvious, his footballing style beyond his years with a great passing range and an assurance in his own ability.
One standout match for Camavinga transitioning from the B Team to the A Team in Ligue 1 was his Man of The Match display against Paris Saint-Germain, not looking out of place battling in the middle against PSG stalwart Marco Verratti. Playing against the likes of the Italian, alongside facing off against the experience of Edinson Cavani and another French superstar in Killian Mbappe, didn’t phase Camavinga and left the casual football follower in awe at the Rennes midfielder’s ability at merely 16 years of age. Spraying passes with ease, running forward with adventurous bouts into the PSG area and playing with a fearlessness at the heart of his game, Julien Stephan’s side pulled off an unlikely 2-1 victory. Assisting the winner, a inch perfect cross finding the head of Romain Del Castillo, Camavinga’s stock rose overnight. Scoring in the last minute against Lyon months later, it was only a matter of time until bigger clubs began knocking on Stade Rennais’ door.
After dazzling for Rennes in various individual moments, Eduardo’s performances for the Ligue 1 club did slightly fall off after announcing himself on the world stage undoing the likes of Neymar in that famous 2-1 victory. Off the back of that performance alone, Camavinga was bound to have suitors. As a youngster too, it isn’t unusual for your performances to be inconsistent. Yet, the French wonderkid didn’t throw a tantrum nor demand an exit out of the top flight French club. Camavinga is a player who gives himself to the collective, as opposed to working off his own accord to the detriment of his teammates. Unlike some prima-donnas in world football, Eduardo knuckled down and warranted a move to Real Madrid because of this. He also demanded an early exit to allow funds to be generated for Stade Rennais, instead of running his contract down and leaving the club that gave him his opportunity penniless from the deal.
Still only 18 years of age, the world is very much Camavinga’s oyster at this moment in time. Being played in a slightly more attacking role for Real, substituted on up top as opposed to occupying a central role, expect Camavinga’s goal-scoring ability to improve at the Bernabeu. There is a worry that it might be too much for the Angolan born talent to handle – sometimes youngsters come and go in a blink of an eye at Los Blancos – but Camavinga’s steely determination stands him in good stead to excel even further.
Forget the likes of Jose Rodriguez who was handed a Real Madrid debut as a teenager, he now plays in Israel, and disregard failed projects such as Martin Odegaard who is now a permanent Arsenal player, the ex-Rennes man is in charge of his own destiny. Surrounded by some world-class talent in Karim Benzema, David Alaba and Luka Modric – all who have immense experience behind them – the French wonderkid has so much more to learn at his new club. A player who already demanded headlines as a teenager, expect the plaudits to only grow as Camavinga continues to make even more waves now at one of the biggest clubs in the world.