He’s only 19 and has started just one Champions League game all season, but Eduardo Camavigna might just be Real Madrid’s most important player at the Stade de France on Saturday.
The French wonderkid, a £34million signing from Rennes last summer, doesn’t grab the headlines like Karim Benzema or Luka Modric, but he was a game-changer for Madrid in their run to the final.
As they watched defeat in their second legs of the knockout stage against Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City, Carlo Ancelotti turned to Camavigna every time and every time he was reward.
Madrid’s powers of recovery stem from their extraordinary record in this competition – ‘it’s the history of this club that helps us carry on when it looks like we’re gone,’ says Ancelotti – but they owe a lot to a player who represents their future. also.
In all three games, Camavigna brought quality and composure on the ball and his tenacity, showing a maturity far beyond his years and providing the impetus needed to tip the momentum irreversibly in Madrid’s favour.
Against PSG, his introduction for Toni Kroos, as Madrid led by two goals, provided Modric with the platform to climb higher up the pitch, from where he was able to link up with Benzema to devastating effect as reversed the deficit.
Against Chelsea his pressing forced turnovers for Madrid’s two goals and he was there in key moments against City too, providing the cross for Benzema to set up the first and then collecting the ball to start the attack for the second. . He even played the crucial pass before the third penalty.
Camavigna is an exceptional all-round midfielder, the extent of his talent reflected in his touch and heat cards in the competition this season. But his contribution to Madrid’s presence in the final does not jump into the statistics.
He is yet to score in the competition this season. His only assist came in a group stage win over Inter Milan in September. He has played fewer minutes in the Champions League than Lucas Vasquez.
And yet, Jurgen Klopp will be acutely aware of what his introduction could mean for his side – even if Liverpool are up front when it happens. In reality, particularly if they are ahead when it happens.
Camavigna could change the course of Saturday’s game but, for his part, he knows his chances of playing anything other than a substitute role are slim.
Kroos and Modric have started every game in the round of 16 and Casemiro is an equally inescapable figure behind them. All three will be aiming to win the competition for the fifth time on Saturday. This experience is irreplaceable.
But Camavinga has embraced his supporting role – even if it’s unfamiliar to him.
He joined Madrid aged 18 having already amassed 88 senior appearances for Rennes. He remains the youngest player in the history of his former club at 16 years and four months. At the end of 2020, he became the youngest French player and scorer for more than a century.
His prodigious talent earned him a long list of suitors at Rennes and many expected that when he arrived in Spain, with Modric being 36 and Kroos 32, his signing would mark a change of guard in the Madrid midfield. .
A goal on his La Liga debut just six minutes after coming off the bench to replace Eden Hazard in a 5-2 win over Celta Vigo in September gave credence to those expectations and left Ancelotti impressed with his character as well as his considerable talent. .
“We all know his physical and technical qualities,” Ancelotti said. “Then on the pitch he showed his personality. We didn’t know that. What happens in games doesn’t worry him, he’s confident.”
By Christmas, however, Camavigna had started just six games, with Ancelotti choosing to bring him in slowly. Fast forward five months and that number is still only 15.
Camavigna has had to be patient but he remains central to the club’s – and Ancelotti’s – plans. “Camavinga is the present and the future of this club,” the Real Madrid coach said in March. “It’s pretty clear for him and for us.
“The day Modric, Casemiro and Kroos are older, we will have Camavinga, Federico Valverde and the youngsters who are in Castile, like Antonio Blanco. We have the perfect succession for these club legends.”
And in the meantime, they have someone capable of changing the game from the bench. Camavigna is already well known to the French public. But Saturday at the Stade de France could be remembered as the day he announced himself to the world.
If Madrid find themselves struggling in the second half, if Modric and Kroos are tired and Ancelotti needs something special from someone else in his midfield, Camavigna will be ready and waiting.