The progression of Eduardo Camavinga at Real Madrid is drawn by the line that goes from the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against Manchester City last year at the Bernabéu to the first leg of this season on the same stage. In 2022, the Frenchman entered the field in a desperate situation: he was already in the 75th minute and his team needed two goals to force extra time. Last week he reached the decisive stretch of the season as an essential piece, either in midfield or as a winger. Last year he threw the deep pass to Benzema that the nine turned into the assist for Rodrygo with which he began the last incredible comeback. This time, with Madrid stuck, he escaped on the wing with a wall with Modric and assisted Vinicius to make it 1-0. That night he was the Real footballer for whom Opta counted the most interventions (78).
His weight has grown so much, from revulsive to pillar, that Juan Iglesias’ stomp that twisted his left knee on Saturday against Getafe opened a delicate period of uncertainty for this Wednesday’s return at the Etihad (9:00 p.m., Movistar). When he finished the match, he was trailing with a limp on his ice-encased left leg. In a similar way to what happened with Fede Valverde last year, Camavinga has become the footballer for whom Ancelotti always finds a place. The Frenchman has achieved this condition through a rare path: the reinvention of a position.
The simplest summary of what his particularity consists of was made by the Italian coach before the first leg: “Camavinga plays on the wing without the ball. With the ball, his position changes. He sometimes puts himself inside, sometimes he puts himself on the side between the lines. He is not a winger who pushes from the outside, because from the outside we already have one who is quite dangerous, which is Vinicius ”.
The formidable threat posed by the Brazilian has long conditioned how the Madrid footballers who operate on that left wing move. As a coach who has worked as an analyst in several First Division teams points out, this influence could already be detected when Mendy was playing: “He would pull the diagonal in to clear Vini’s passing line and create problems for the defender. With Mendy there, aid is more problematic” to try to stop the Brazilian.
Mendy used to be on the inside, away from the band, somewhere in front of Toni Kroos. That is where Camavinga also appears when Madrid attacks in static. And that is where he makes the difference with respect to the holder of the position, according to Marcelino García Toral, former coach of Athletic, Valencia and Villarreal: “In terms of creation and depth, due to the possibilities of play in that intermediate zone, Camavinga is the most gifted , the most offensive”, he explains. In that he agrees with Ancelotti: “Camavinga’s position can help us break when Vinicius has the ball, because he has the quality to play between the lines.”
The Frenchman came to the left back as an emergency patch for injuries and has won the job through a mixture of reliability in defense and brilliance in attack: “This boy’s adaptation to that role is commendable,” says Marcelino. “He has shown great footballing ability with a very high performance as a winger. He has responded perfectly.”
In addition, when the team attacks, it significantly enriches the left flank, the most unbalancing of Madrid. He contributes to the running speed with Vinicius and Benzema, and allows Kroos the prospect of staying a bit further back. “From there he is capable of creating much more play, of seeing football in the face,” Marcelino abounds. With Camavinga, Ancelotti has found the way to add a harmful footballer to the advanced zone without giving up any of the defensive framework. “He has more quality than Mendy, and his physique allows him to defend by individual capacity,” explains the analyst. “Then they both have a very good comeback from those forward positions, because they are very fast.”
Camavinga has broken into a position that in Madrid treasures a particular tradition of attacking profiles, such as Roberto Carlos and Marcelo. Although stepping more inside, and without feeling in his ecosystem: “I don’t like playing on the wing,” he said a month ago at Stamford Bridge after eliminating Chelsea in the quarterfinals. Wherever it is, Modric considers it essential: “Although perhaps he doesn’t like to play there, wherever you put him he will do well. It is very important to us: his football, his personality on the pitch. He is a top boy ”.
Ancelotti does not believe that the band is his best location either, but Camavinga now performs as the best in that area. In the eyes of the Italian, the experiment has other advantages: “He is taking advantage of the time he plays as a winger to improve his limits, which are, above all, linked to his age. He has to mature his experience, his knowledge of the tactical aspect, because, as I said in another press conference, technically he has nothing to learn ”.
Marcelino also sees it as an opportunity: “With that versatility and that very high performance, we are facing an extraordinary footballer’s project”.
You can follow EL PAÍS Sports on Facebook and Twitteror sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits