They may not have signed anyone yet, but plans are gathering afoot at Manchester United as they shape their summer rebuild.
With a £73million deal for Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho near completion, the Red Devils’ attentions are now focusing on luring Rennes’ teenage sensation Eduardo Camavinga to Old Trafford.
As detailed by Sportsmail, United are planning further talks with Rennes plus Camavinga’s representatives. But who is the midfielder? Sportsmail provides the lowdown on the vastly-talented France international.
Eduardo Camavinga is a Manchester United target this summer – having shone at Rennes
Why are Manchester United interested?
Despite their vast array of options, central midfield remains an issue for Manchester United. Bruno Fernandes (albeit a bit higher up the pitch), Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay, Fred, Nemanja Matic and Donny van de Beek are all battling for a spot in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s midfield.
Out of that sextuplet only Matic can be seen as a truly defensive option, but he finds himself fifth in the United pecking order behind Fernandes, Pogba, McTominay and Fred.
Another central defensive midfielder is needed for the Red Devils this summer – and one that can command a starting berth. West Ham and England star Declan Rice has long been linked as being that player but attentions have now turned to Camavinga.
Camavinga’s qualities would enhance United at the central defensive midfield role instantly
The 18-year-old has demonstrated his defensive nous since breaking through at Rennes two years ago. He made his debut for Rennes in a 3–3 Ligue 1 draw at Angers on April 6, 2019 – becoming the youngest player to ever play for their first team at 16 years and four months old. And since then Camavinga hasn’t looked back, producing performances that defy his teenage years.
Two of his main attributes are his tackling and ability to read a game – qualities that United do lack. At times this season they were too easy to target centrally – with centre backs Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof exposed. To counteract this Solskjaer often selected his tried and trusted hardworking duo McTominay and Fred to cover this flaw. While this did work, it all stymied the creativity in this position as Pogba was forced out to the left wing.
However, if Camavinga joined then this would aid this issue as he could do the defensive duties – allowing for a more creative outlet to feature alongside him. The 18-year-old is much more than just a ‘sitter’ though. He has the ability to start attacks too – and in numerous ways – via running with the ball in midfield, dribbling past his opponent and playing an exquisite pass to unlock a defence.
He doesn’t have the attacking stats to highlight this (just one goal and three assists in Ligue 1 this season) but those who watch him are acutely aware of his qualities. This would be of particular benefit to United who are synonymous with counter-attacking at will under Solskjaer – especially in the beginning of the transition phase.
However, he is a lot more than just a ‘sitter’, his style would help United get on the front foot
How did he fare this season?
If his first two campaigns went swimmingly, then Camavinga’s third has been hit by testy waters. Despite featuring 35 times in Ligue 1 for Rennes as they finished sixth, and sampling Champions League football for the first time in his young career, by his own admission the teenager didn’t perform to the best of his abilities.
Speculation over his future played a part in this downturn, especially at the turn of the year, but there are also the natural inconsistencies that occur with a young footballer.
Speaking about his form, he told the Ligue 1 website in May: ‘I’m not going to lie to myself, I’m having an average season.
‘There have been a lot of low points, and I haven’t done everything I needed to do.’
By his standards, this season was the 18-year-old’s worse out of three since making his debut
France boss Didier Deschamps, who handed him his international bow – more on that to come later, also alluded to a dip in Camavinga’s form recently as to why he did he make his Euro 2020 squad.
‘He has had a complicated, very complicated time, for different reasons, certainly. After what he was able to show with us when he came, well yes, that can happen… He is a young player, (what he showed with us) did not translate into performances with his club, for various reasons.
‘If you look, even with the Under 21s in March, he started the first game, but didn’t start the next two. His potential and what he is capable of, what he has done with us, and what he has done since, obviously there’s a big difference.
‘Potentially, he’s not supposed to drift from the scene either, after that it is up to him to look at the various elements to see what made his performances less strong.’
His downturn in form saw him overlooked by France manager Didier Deschamps for the Euros
Why is he likely to leave this summer?
Quite simply, Camavinga has 12 months left on his current contract and Rennes have no intention of letting him leave on a free transfer.
Regarded as one of the best up and coming midfielders in Europe, Camavinga’s sale would bolster the coffers of the Ligue 1 club. According to reports in France, Rennes have slapped an £85m price-tag on his head – a figure that would allow them to reinvest heavily into the squad.
Speaking to TV Rennes on Monday, sporting director Florian Maurice said they won’t be rushed into a decision over their star’s future.
The midfielder looks set to leave Rennes this summer as they don’t wish to lose him for nothing
‘For the moment, we do not have any agreement one way or another. For the moment, Eduardo is here,’ he said.
‘Discussions exist between clubs and the player too. Now, we have still not found a solution as it relates to him. We have been working for a long while on this extension. Now, we don’t have an agreement on that.
‘With a player who has one year left of his contract we either find a way to extend him and that gives us a bit of time, or tomorrow a club has interest in Eduardo and we will think about the offers we might have. We are not under any obligation to sell the player. He has one year left on his contract.
‘Honestly, it is difficult to respond because today we have not had a single offer that has arrived at the president’s office. We are continuing the discussions and we hope to come to something. The window closes on August 31.’
The elegant midfielder has entered the final 12 months of his contract and is unlikely to renew
European rival interest in Eduardo Camavinga
Despite United’s eagerness to get a deal done, they’re not the only club in for Camavinga. Fellow European heavyweights Real Madrid are also among his suitors as are Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.
Speaking about his future in May, Camavinga told French outlet Telefoot: ‘It makes you feel flattered and it is nice that teams like Real Madrid or Bayern are interested in your situation.
‘I am not going to lie, but I have not yet decided with my family what I will do.’
A host of European giants are after Camavinga – such as Real Madrid, PSG and Bayern Munich
Real have been admirers for over a year but this position may have changed now that Zinedine Zidane is no longer their manager. They were reportedly rebuffed in their approach for the teenager last summer due to Rennes’ high transfer fee. Twelve months on, the Spanish giants are focusing on other targets in other positions such as PSG superstar Kylian Mbappe.
If PSG manage to keep hold of Mbappe then he could potentially line up alongside Camavinga for both club and country next term. Moving to the French capital would see the midfielder remain on home soil and form a part of Mauricio Pochettino’s squad which will start the Ligue 1 season as heavy favourites to regain their crown from champions Lille.
Then there is also the not-so small matter of Bayern. The German giants have a monopoly of Bundesliga and are in need for more central midfielders this summer with Javi Martinez having already left and Corentin Tolisso’s future reportedly in the air.
United face a battle on their hands to land the highly-talented teenager this summer
Essentially, Camavinga isn’t short of suitors as his agent Jonathan Barnett told SNTV in May: ‘Believe me we have a lot of offers for this year, a lot of offers, and good ones.
‘I mean top, top clubs. We don’t want to rush. There is the right time to move on and playing games is the most important thing at his age.
‘Playing in a good club is nice for him. It might be this year, or he wants to have another year.
‘He has got to talk to his family, his father. We will all sit down and decide. We will talk to Rennes as well and decide. There is no rush for him.’
Relationship with Paul Pogba
One factor that may sway Camavinga’s thoughts to joining United though is his relationship with Paul Pogba. Here there is a ‘big brother/little brother’ dynamic.
Speaking about 28-year-old Pogba last year, Camavinga hailed him as a role model: ‘I am inspired by Paul Pogba, an excellent player who has a huge career.’
That feeling of respect is definitely both ways as Pogba has spoken glowingly multiple times about his French compatriot.
Speaking in October, 2020 after linking up with France, the United man said of the 18-year-old: ‘It is a pleasure to see him don the [France] shirt. To score after his first start [against Ukraine in a friendly], that is honestly wonderful. I was truly happy for him. I only wish him the best and much more. He has everything for that. His future is in his hands.
‘He is very at ease, he is a little dancer. He makes me think a bit about me. He is not a timid person. It is good, because he is confident. He has confidence in his qualities. He is a very good youngster, I like him enormously.’
With a bond already formed between the pair that would only be enhanced at Old Trafford next season.
Camavinga already has a bond with Man United star Paul Pogba having played for France
How would he likely fare at Manchester United?
That’s a good question, for an expensive outlay you’d expect Camavinga to feature heavily in the starting XI. A midfield trio of him, Pogba and Fernandes would whet the appetite of the United faithful – purely for the qualities he possesses as stated above.
However, in reality it wouldn’t like be this way – just ask Donny van de Beek. The Holland international was bought last summer in a £40m deal from Ajax but soon found himself sixth-choice in the midfield pecking order and rarely afforded a start.
This is an extreme and it’s likely that Camavinga would be in the middle of these two possibilities – rotating in one of the pivot spots with McTominay and Fred, especially as he gets to grips with the rigours of English football.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (left) barely started Donny van de Beek despite spending £40m on him
PS – he’s already shone on the international stage too!
Despite being just 18, Camavinga already has the honour of representing his country at senior level.
As mentioned earlier, the midfielder was in the picture for the France squad at the Euros – having already won three caps for Les Bleus.
He made his debut for his country on September 8, 2020 as a second-half substitute against Croatia in the UEFA Nations League. In doing so he became the youngest player to play for France since Maurice Gastiger in 1914 at 17 years, nine months and 29-days-old.
On September 8, 2020; Camavinga made his debut for France vs Croatia – becoming the youngest to do so since Maurice Gastiger in 1914 at 17 years, nine months and 29-days-old
A month later he retained his place within Deschamps’ setup. He was handed his first international start on October 7, 2020 in a friendly against Ukraine and marked it in sublime style – scoring an overhead kick to put France 1-0 ahead. That made him the youngest goalscorer for France since Gastiger in 1914 as Deschamps’ side won 7-1.
His third and final appearance came in the reverse UEFA Nations League qualifier at Croatia, a 2-1 victory, on October 14, 2020.
Overlooked for the Euros though, the midfielder will be hoping to showcase his talents at the Olympics in Tokyo after being named in Sylvain Ripoll’s 21-man squad.
A month later he opened his France account with this stunning overhead kick against Ukraine