In the opinion of many, Eduardo Camavinga was a revenge signing for Real Madrid. Indeed, the French teenager pitched up at the Santiago Bernabeu last summer, just days after the Spanish giants had been thwarted in their efforts to sign Kylian Mbappe. Paris Saint-Germain wouldn’t let their prized asset leave, so Real Madrid retaliated by signing a player the French team had targeted.

Camavinga has more than earned his place in Carlo Ancelotti’s squad since then, though. Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are still seen as Real Madrid’s first-choice midfield trio, but Camavinga has been an extremely valuable squad member. In fact, the 19-year-old has been Ancelotti’s secret weapon.

This has particularly been the case in the Champions League where Real Madrid have made their fifth final in nine years. Camavinga played an important role in the victories over PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City with Ancelotti demonstrating an appreciation of when to use the French midfielder to the greatest effect.

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The precedent was set with a 33-minute cameo off the bench in the round of 16 second leg against PSG. At the time of Camavinga’s introduction, Real Madrid were trailing 2-0 in the tie and were on their way out of the Champions League. PSG were being afforded too much time and space in the middle of the pitch.

With Camavinga on the pitch, though, Los Blancos were able to regain control of the contest. The teenager’s energy and mobility restricted Marco Verratti from playing his natural game. He was able to cover much more of the pitch than Kroos and Modric had been capable of on their own. It was a turning point in the tie.

Something similar happened in the quarter-final second leg against Chelsea when Camavinga was introduced off the bench with just 13 minutes left on the clock. Chelsea were 2-0 up on the night and scored a third shortly after Camavinga’s substitution. Once the youngster settled, though, the dynamic of the contest changed.

Just as he did against PSG, Camavinga raised the tempo and intensity of Real Madrid’s play. N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic were pressed harder and quicker. Mason Mount was no longer free to drift between the lines. Some argued Ancelotti should have introduced Camavinga earlier, but he still had an influence.

To continue the pattern, Camavinga was thrown on with 15 minutes remaining of the Champions League semi-final second leg against Manchester City. Just as in the round of 16 and quarter-final, Real Madrid were trailing when the French midfielder was introduced. By full time, they had once again won thanks to Camavinga’s contribution.

Some think Camavinga is best as a midfield anchor while others argue his attacking instincts mean he should he deployed in a more advanced position. This discussion, however, reflects how the 19-year-old is the perfect central midfielder – he can play in a number of different ways in a number of different systems.

Ancelotti will most likely need Camavinga again in the final against Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp’s team play with a lot of energy in midfield and that could overwhelm the ageing unit of Casemiro, Kroos and Modric. Camavinga, along with Fede Valverde, could help Real Madrid go toe-to-toe with Liverpool.

The big dilemma facing Ancelotti now is whether he carries on his tradition of bringing Camavinga off the bench to impact the game or starts him right from the off against the Reds.

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