As we look into the future of football, we cast a spotlight on the best young players who could dominate the game in the years to come. Join us as we check out the future stars of tomorrow - Eduardo Camavinga might very well be the next big thing.
Eduardo Camavinga was born in an Angolan refugee camp in 2002, to Congolese parents who had fled the horrors of war back home in Kinshasa. The family then immigrated to France when he was two years old, settling in the commune of Fougeres, which is just 40 kilometres north-east of Rennes.
Young Camavinga originally took up judo but ended up breaking so many things at home while practising that his parents decided to take him to play football at amateur club AGL-Drapeau Fougeres instead at the age of seven.
The fledgling midfielder’s progression was swift, as he constantly played above his age group with his club. His coaches reported a model professional, eager to learn and quick to pick things up.
People were starting to take note of the 11-year-old Camavinga and it wasn’t long before Stade Rennes came calling and invited him to join a summer tournament with head coach Julien Stéphan watching on.
The Ligue 1 club were interested in taking the young talent onto their books, but family disaster struck as the Camavingas home burnt down in a fire.
"We had been at that house, which my parents had built, for less than a year," Camavinga said.
"I remember the fire as if it were yesterday. I was at school and saw the firefighters passing outside the window. At the end of the class the teachers came to me and my little sister and explained what had happened. My dad came to get us and took us there. Everything was burned, everything was destroyed."
The family were devastated but Camavinga Sr. told his son solemnly: “Eduardo, you are the hope of the family, it is you who will raise us up.”
Camavinga joined Rennes system in 2013 and signed his first senior contract on 14 December 2018, becoming the club’s youngest ever professional. He would make his first team debut less than four months later, once again making mark as the youngest player to appear for the club.
The plaudits didn’t stop there however. In August 2019, Camavinga was voted the youngest player of the month in Ligue 1. This made the Stade Rennais midfielder the youngest winner in the history of this individual distinction at only 16 years old.
The teenager’s citizenship application had been delayed after his documents were destroyed in the house fire but he finally obtained French citizenship in November 2019 and was quickly called up to the France Under-21 team.
Further strong showings for Rennes would lead to a call-up to the French national team in 2020 and an international debut on 8 September of the same year as he replaced N’Golo Kanté against Croatia in the second half. This made the 17-year-old the youngest French debutant for more than half a century, beating the record set by Kylian Mbappe.
Camavinga’s performances were starting to attract attention all around Europe as he was linked with a host of clubs including Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. It would be Spanish mega-club Real Madrid who would win this particular race though as they swooped in to nab the teenage defensive midfielder in a move worth up to €40 million in the summer of 2021.
In a nutshell
A defensive midfielder by trade, Camavinga is more than just a bruising enforcer. The French youngster is a dynamic and mobile athlete who is ideal in a box-to-box role, which explains his goal-scoring prowess despite a deep starting position.
Camavinga is able to pick a perfect pass too, creating opportunities for teammates while dancing away from would-be tacklers when required. Coaches rave about a tactically intelligent player who is able to take in information and produce consistently on the pitch.
Given his innate skills and composed displays at the highest levels of European football, the sky's the limit for the Real Madrid starlet.
What they’ve said
“This is the first time I’d seen a player with such qualities. When we wanted to maintain a result, we put him in defence, if we needed a goal, we would put him in attack. He had the ability to do both.” - Jo Burel, Camavinga’s coach at AGL-Drapeau Fougeres
“He has everything for that. His future is in his hands. He is very at ease, he is a little dancer. 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.” - France teammate Paul Pogba
“He has this simplicity that brings the ball to life. He touches the ball as much as anyone else, but sparingly. He doesn’t need to carry it. He passes the ball, he makes himself available; he passes, he makes himself available.” - Landry Chauvin, former head of the Stade Rennes academy
“There is nothing impossible for him. He is good in the air, can tackle and defend, assist and score. He is elegant, intelligent, and has a powerful left foot.” - former Rennes teammate Hatem Ben Arfa