Eduardo Camavinga Paul Pogba GFXGetty/Goal

The new Pogba? Camavinga has everything to surpass Man Utd star

When Ansu Fati, aged 17 years and 308 days, came off the bench for Spain in their Nations League draw with Germany, the Barcelona attacker made a slice of history as he became his nation’s youngest international since 1936.

Remarkably, though, Fati's claim as the youngest debutant of the international break is set to be eclipsed over the coming days by up-and-coming France star Eduardo Camavinga, who is expected to make his bow for the world champions on Tuesday against Croatia having sat pinned to the bench during Les Bleus’ anaemic 1-0 win over Sweden on Saturday.

Assuming Camavinga takes to the field, he will be 17 years and 304 days old: France’s youngest international since the First World War and second-youngest ever. Not bad for a player who was only granted his passport last November.

Born in Angola, Camavinga moved to France before the age of two, and since dropping judo to concentrate on his football has been a player touted for the top.

Already he is realising those ambitions, with Manchester United and Real Madrid reportedly eager to secure his signature.

They watched as he played a key role as Rennes finished third in Ligue 1 last season, thereby securing Champions League football for the first time, and he has earned his first international call-up from Didier Deschamps less than a year after first featuring for the Under-21s.

“Obviously we have to manage him because he’s young and this chance has come quickly for him, but now that he’s in the squad, he’s able to play just like anyone else,” Deschamps said. “He’ll be managed like any other player and he will have a certain amount of playing time.”

Camavinga has taken the place of Paul Pogba, who tested positive for Covid-19. It is a scenario that the 27-year-old Manchester United star may need to grow used to, for this upstart talent has the capability to exceed even the man who was once the most expensive player in the world and one he is already being compared to.

"He's (Pogba) a very good player with great qualities. He proved it in the French team, just look what he did: world champion. But I don't really like comparisons," Camavinga said.

Bunking in the room usually reserved for the Red Devil, though, will be a source of confidence for a young man who admits that Pogba is an "inspiration".

He is a teenager who has grown up making history. He was the youngest player to sign professional terms with Rennes then the youngest player to play a Ligue 1 match for them and even the youngest player to score for them.

He was also the first player born in 2002 to play in any of Europe’s five major leagues, debuting at an age even younger than Kylian Mbappe when he exploded onto the scene with Monaco.

And for many Ligue 1 watchers, the potential of Camavinga is equal to that of the Paris Saint-Germain star, who confirmed his promise by leading France to World Cup glory in Russia in 2018.

Indeed, it was against PSG in August last season that he confirmed beyond any doubt that he is a player with the capability of becoming a generational talent. Although Rennes suffered a 2-1 defeat, it was Camavinga who bossed the game, raising himself above PSG’s galaxy of stars.

Eduardo Camavinga Rennes 2019-20Getty Images

He would subsequently be named Ligue 1 Player of the Month for August. Of course, he was the youngest player even to attain such an honour.

The curtailed 2019-20 campaign restricted him to 25 league appearances, but there are already signs that he is eager to make up for lost time.

He was deployed in a defensive midfield role by head coach Julien Stephan last season, but a switch to a 4-3-3 formation and the confirmation that Steven N’Zonzi will be available for the whole of the campaign means that he has been afforded a more offensive role this time around. 

With just one goal and two assists in his 32 Ligue 1 matches before the 2020-21 season, he has already shown his potential when allowed off the defensive leash he was previously tied to.

This was expressed most obviously in August's 2-1 win over Montpellier, in which he grabbed the game-deciding goal in stunning fashion. After a quick one-two out on the left wing, he sprinted into the box, bamboozled a couple of defenders with step overs, then drilled into the far corner.

A week earlier, he had come on against Lille and completely transformed the complexion of the match, getting a key assist as he flicked on a corner to allow his side to steal a 1-1 draw.

Eduardo Camavinga GFXGetty/Goal

It seems there is nothing Camavinga is not capable of. Technically he is polished, physically he is lithe yet strong, as one might expect of a kid with a background in martial arts, while mentally he plays with a brainpower that is far in excess of his years.

“That goal against Montpellier sums up what he is capable of doing,” Deschamps said. “Despite his young age, he’s very confident. The two or three body feints he made, without touching the ball, shows that he has this technical ease that can allow him to be decisive in the attacking zones.”

There are, of course, areas of his game that need to be polished. While he has yet to confirm his form at the highest level over a prolonged period of time, he also has a tendency to be over-reliant on his left foot. Would his goal against Montpellier have been possible had he been shown onto his right side by a more savvy defence? Probably not.

For now, Deschamps is therefore being cautious over his young charge and is eager not to put too great a burden on him, yet when he inevitably makes his international bow, Camavinga’s profile will rise a notch yet again.

With Champions League football just around the corner and inevitable transfer speculation to come in the season ahead if he maintains his form, being in the spotlight is something the teenager will have to grow used to.

If Camavinga can thrive under such scrutiny, the sky is the limit.