Eduardo Camavinga joined Real Madrid from Rennes in the summer of 2021 as an 18-year-old. During the same summer, Madrid couldn’t strike a deal with PSG for Kylian Mbappé and club president Florentino Pérez shifted his focus towards Camavinga before striking a deal with Rennes.
Camavinga was a target for Madrid for around two years. He was only a teenager when he arrived in Madrid, but he had played two years of top-flight football with the Ligue 1 side, including a season with Champions League football.
In his first season with Los Blancos, the Frenchman played as a pivot in games when Casemiro was unavailable and also operated as a central midfielder.
When you look at Camavinga’s skill set, his main strength is his ability as a ball carrier and he makes it looks easy when he goes past players before picking out Karim Benzema, Vinícius or Rodrygo in front of him.
Casemiro spoke in an interview with El País about Camavinga’s future role and said: “Camavinga still has to choose if he wants to be a 6 or an 8”.
When you evaluate the France international’s game and look at the attacking threat he poses, and his ball-carrying abilities, it soon becomes clear that he is more suited to the No 8 role than he is to the No 6 role.
Aurélien Tchouaméni offers tactical discipline, but Camavinga is more explosive. Against Cacereño in Madrid’s recent Copa del Rey tie, he started in a more advanced role than Tchoumaméni and when his compatriot was substituted at half-time, Camavinga took on the role of the pivot.
Against tired opponents, he causes havoc. He dominated in Madrid’s Champions League comebacks last season. It happened against PSG, Chelsea and again against Manchester City as Madrid made their way to Paris. Camavinga’s introductions were devastating.
He has given Madrid’s midfield high energy levels and physicality. And those European performances came on the biggest nights when he was just 19.
His main challenge is to establish himself as a starter. Carlo Ancelotti loves having him as an option off the bench and has said: “He is a player who has a great influence on games when he comes on because of his energy”.
Camavinga is not entirely convinced by this role though, however, when Ancelotti starts him he is usually one of the first players to be taken off.
This season in La Liga
Camavinga has one assist and has yet to find the net in 16 league games this season. He’s not playing full games and therefore his goals and assist numbers will naturally suffer.
In 16 league games for Madrid this season, he has started five and has come on as a sub in 11 of them.
The former Rennes midfielder picked up too many yellow cards last season – nine in 26 league games. He went to the ground to win the ball back a lot.
Although Ancelotti is aware that he still has areas to develop – this season his discipline has improved – picking up just two yellows at the time of writing.
One of Camavinga’s most worrying weaknesses for the coaching staff at Madrid is his positioning on the pitch. It can take him a while to settle into the game and he can look lost on the pitch.
Struggling with Tchouaméni
Ancelotti has said in the past that Tchouaméni is a better player alongside Toni Kroos. Camavinga and Tchouaméni have struggled at times when starting together. They struggled in Leipzig just as they did on the first day of the season when Madrid played against Almería. They started together, as in Leipzig, alongside Kroos but Ancelotti replaced Camavinga at half-time.
The same thing is happening with France. Didier Deschamps also wanted to try out his two Madrid players together in the November defeat to Denmark. Camavinga was taken off at half-time.
His second-half introduction was, however, key to France’s comeback in the World Cup final against Argentina. He has the ability to come on and change games. He played at left-back for France in the final in Qatar and it was down the same wing but further forward where he created Karim Benzema’s second goal against Real Valladolid when La Liga resumed at the end of 2022.
Competition at the Bernabéu
Despite the extremely high competition in the engine room at the Santiago Bernabéu with Modric, Kroos, Tchouaméni, Fede Valverde and, to a lesser extent, Dani Ceballos, Camavinga wants his place in the starting eleven.
“I don’t want to be a substitute all my life,” he said in an interview with Goal before the World Cup. “It’s not nice to be on the bench but I have good players ahead of me. You have to be patient.”
Tchouameni’s brilliance won’t have helped him, and Kroos and Modric are still running the show. However, he played a major role as a secondary player in the second half of the season and can do the same again this season.
He can run from deep, driving Madrid forward, and can also play the final ball on the edge of the area.
Ancelotti is one of the very best in the business at managing players. Camavinga, still only 20, is making an impact off the bench so it’s to argue with what the Italian is doing with his midfield, especially after winning the Champions League and La Liga.
Camavinga is learning from the best midfielders in the world and winning the biggest trophies on offer. He has also spoken about asking Modric and Kroos for advice on his midfield role.
The way forward is performances like the one against Valladolid recently. If he continues to deliver from the bench, eventually he will get his chance.
Kieran Quaile | GSFN