Sat, 25 Sep 2021

"You will have our fans behind you in every match," Real Madrid president Florentin Perez told Eduardo Camavinga during the 18-year-old Frenchman's presentation ceremony in Madrid. "Their strength and support will be with you on this journey." To seasoned observers of the Madrid merry-go-round, the words were construed as much a remark of encouragement as warning for the former Rennes midfielder.

Camavinga might be playing in front of those spectators on Sunday night at the Santiago Bernabeu when the La Liga leaders entertain Celta Vigo.

But those fans can be fickle indeed; many a fabled footballer has failed to find favour.

Of late, Eden Hazard has struggled to convince them that he has been worth the 120 million euros paid to Chelsea in 2019 for his wizardry.

And Gareth Bale, key performer in Madrid's Champions League successes under Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane, spent last season on loan at Tottenham Hotspur in an attempt to break a toxic cycle in which he seemed unable to leave Madrid nor get selected.

The Welshman is back in the Spanish capital and featuring in the team steered by Ancelotti, who took over from Zidane as Madrid boss at the end of last season.

Ever the pragmatist, Ancelotti will introduce Camavinga when practical. And there might not be a better time than against a side that has taken only one point from its first three games.


"I've been happy from the moment I found out I was going to be a Real Madrid player," said Camavinga.

"I'm here to learn and have to prove that I'm ready. I will work hard and try to enjoy some playing time."

That yen for industry will be examined over the coming months. From being the home-grown hero at Rennes, he will have to jostle for primacy in the sentinel role with seasoned internationals such as Federico Valverde and Casemiro.

"I must also adapt to every style of play and the position that the coach asks me to play," Camavinga added. "I will give everything in whatever position I play."

Such exuberance appears only natural for a player who admitted it was a dream to sign for Madrid. And though he arrives with less fanfare than Hazard or Bale, the pressure exists for one of the wunderkinds of French football - Madrid having failed to sign the other Kylian Mbappe.


Can he thrive in a dressing room of weapons-grade egos? Can Madrid's bosses exhibit sufficient structural savvy to not only identify emerging talent but integrate the nascent dazzle into its senior team?

An object lesson awaits. But the indicators all suggest a big win for Madrid. They have paid just over 30 million euros for a player who has made history since joining the Rennes academy in 2013.

He was the youngest player to turn out for the club in Ligue 1 and the youngest player to score a goal for the A team. Internationally, he was the youngest player to turn out for France since 1914.

In his brief moment with Rennes, Camavinga lifted the 2019 Coupe de France. More glittering prizes are expected during his stay in Madrid.

"I want to soak up my teammates' experience because they've been playing at the highest level," Camavinga enthused during his first press conference with the Madrid media. "Competition motivates me."

A phrase to please any crowd.

Originally published on RFI

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