After finally securing a deal for Jadon Sancho, Manchester United have turned their attention to Rennes wonderkid Eduardo Camavinga.
The 18-year-old has already made 82 senior appearances and interest in him has been bubbling away for almost two years.
Although Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid, as well as Arsenal and Liverpool, remain in the race for his signature, United are confident of adding Camavinga to their ranks this summer.
Although you will have no doubt heard his name mentioned in the past, you may be wondering what exactly it is about Camavinga that has got Europe’s top clubs so excited. Here is what the youngster might bring to Old Trafford…
Press resistance & dribbling
It is hard to get the ball off Camavinga / John Berry/Getty Images
Once he has the ball, Camavinga is extremely hard to dispossess. A combination of quick feet, terrific dribbling and explosive pace also means that if the opposition overcommit in their press he is able to punish them by beating his man and driving up the pitch.
Last season he averaged just shy of two successful dribbles per 90 minutes, with a completion rate of 69%. Nice.
This ability to drive with the ball developed considerably last season. In the 2019/2020 campaign he clocked 2,756 progressive yards on the ball, a figure he increased by around 2,500 yards in just a handful more games last term. The amount of progressive carries he managed increased by 80 in the same period.
This data proves something that is immediately obvious when you watch Camavinga play. Although he will often take the ball from the centre-backs deep inside his own half he is not afraid to beat his man in these areas, advancing his side up the pitch in the process.
Camavinga loves running with the ball at his feet but he also knows when to keep things simple. Last season, despite his tender years he rarely gave the ball away cheaply, completing just shy of 90% of his passes.
Whenever he gives up the ball he is eager to get it back. He is always on the move looking to find an angle to help his teammates retain possession.
Although the majority of his passes are of the safe, possession-retaining variety, his range is also pretty impressive. Last term he sprayed 152 successful long balls, with a competition rate of 85.4%. The rate was only bettered by the far more experienced Steven N’Zonzi in the Rennes squad last season.
For the most part these long passess were attractive switches of play, something United fans will be hoping they see a lot of considering their strength out wide.
Impressive out of possession
It is not just on the ball that Camavinga excels. His best defensive attribute is tackling. He often resembles a coiled cobra on the pitch, getting into a low body position before jerking out a leg to regain possession for his side.
Last season just four players in Ligue 1 registered more tackles than Camavinga – and all of them played more minutes. Overall he averaged a terrific 4.16 tackles per 90 minutes and his impressive defensive skill set does not stop there.
Last term he averaged 6.74 successful pressures per 90, testament to both his energy and intelligent closing down of passing lanes.
With the right coaching on some of his weaker areas Camavinga could develop into a scarily good player capable of dominating the central midfield position for years to come.
One of his most obvious shortcomings is a lack of progressive passing. He may be comfortable in possession but he does not yet have the vision and guile to pick apart defences consistently.
Last season he averaged just 3.72 progressive passes per 90 minutes. To put this number into some sort of context, Fred – who is often maligned for his negativity in possession – averaged 5.6.
Strangely, despite his prowess in the tackles, Camvinga’s interception numbers were terrible last season as well. He averaged just 0.75 interceptions per game, far less than Fred and Scott McTominay who he would be expected to replace in the United starting XI.
His lack of interceptions may point to a preference for destructive midfield play. However, this could come at the price of losing midfield structure when he comes to the Premier League. Camavinga may need to temper his youthful exuberance if he does arrive in England.
Deciding where Camavinga fits into the United midfield is a tough task. As he possesses such a diverse skill set he seems capable – with the right coaching – of thriving alongside all of his potential partners.
The solidity of McTominay would give him license to drive forward from deep, while Fred’s energy would make United one of the toughest pressing teams around.
In the long term it is easy to see Camavinga stepping into Paul Pogba’s shoes. Real Madrid are confident he will joining them next season and the player who Pogba once referred to as a “little dancer” might be the ideal replacement.
Though Camavinga’s still has some way to go to match his elder quality wise, there are more than a few comparisons that can be made between the pair. Namely the intoxicating blend of technique with physicality and the superb passing range. If United can get Camavinga more comfortable in the final third, he could step into Pogba’s shoes over the next five years or so.