Paris (AFP) – The landmarks just keep on coming for Eduardo Camavinga of Rennes and France, possibly the most exciting teenage prospect in world football.
Earlier this month he celebrated his 18th birthday and revealed with a cheeky grin that he had passed his driving test the same day “with flying colours”.
In the last 12 months this prodigious talent has become a French citizen — and turned up at the ceremony in a black suit, bow-tie and white trainers — before going on to become the national team’s youngest representative, and youngest goal-scorer, in over a century.
“What is happening to him is fantastic,” said Rennes coach Julien Stephan after Camavinga got that first call-up.
Throughout his giddy rise to prominence he has been regularly linked with a move to one of Europe’s super clubs, most notably Real Madrid.
But for now Camavinga is happy to keep developing at Rennes, with whom he will face Chelsea in the Champions League this midweek.
Camavinga missed the last meeting of the teams three weeks ago due to injury, and without him the Champions League debutants lost 3-0 at Stamford Bridge after having a man sent off in the first half.
With their Angolan-born starlet back, Rennes may just have a chance of causing an upset that would keep them alive a little longer in the competition and, perhaps, help convince him to stick around a little longer in Brittany.
Last week French sports daily L’Equipe reported Camavinga was close to extending his contract at Roazhon Park until 2023.
It is unlikely he will stay at Rennes that long, but by penning the deal he will guarantee an even bigger windfall when the time does come to move on.
– ‘Future in his hands’ –
He is a simply mind-blowing talent, always playing with his head up, graceful on the ball and at ease on his left foot. He glides across the pitch and the signs are that he is starting to become a goal-scoring threat too.
In August he conjured a fabulous, and decisive, goal for Rennes in a Ligue 1 game against Montpellier.
Last month he found the net nine minutes into his first start for France, against Ukraine.
In doing so, Camavinga became the youngest player to score for Les Bleus since Maurice Gastiger, who was 17 years and five months old, in 1914.
Asked last week what aspects of his game he wanted to improve, he responded: “My finishing. I want to score more, be more decisive. And my right foot.”
Nevertheless, he is almost making Kylian Mbappe, a comparative veteran at 21, old news in a country where the conveyor belt of young talent is seemingly never-ending.
“He is young, but it’s like Kylian, their age doesn’t matter. I’d lump the two of them together. There is a serenity and maturity about them that I didn’t have at that age,” said Paul Pogba recently.
“The future is in his hands.”
– Feet on the ground –
Camavinga’s story would be remarkable enough even without the football career.
Born in a refugee camp in the Angolan exclave of Cabinda, he was two when he arrived in France with his family.
Their first port of call was the northern city of Lille, before they moved to Fougeres, a town in Brittany not far from Rennes.
One of six children, Eduardo wanted to do judo like his big brother, but it soon became apparent he had extraordinary ability with a football.
In 2013 the family home was destroyed in a fire, in which the Camavingas lost all proof of their identity.
But that is the year Eduardo joined Rennes, and by the time the family posed at their naturalisation ceremony he had been a professional for a year.
As he grows up, Camavinga knows the expectations on him will become greater, but he is keeping his feet on the ground.
“I have my parents close by, so I know that as soon as I do something foolish they will bring back me into line,” he said last week.
“But I need to concentrate on my football. I am not going to become big-headed.”
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