Prognosis, diagnosis, ice baths and cryotherapy, multiple journeys under the knife and a whole lot of loneliness and despair.
At just 18 years of age, Willy Kambwala has endured the sufferings of a seasoned veteran, but the youngster has not let them get the best of him, not yet.
Signed for a hefty €4M fee on deadline day in 2020, the then French U-16’s captain had the world at his feet when he made his much anticipated move to the Theatre of Dreams.
It was a dream that would quickly unfold into a recurring series of never-ending nightmares.
Born in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kambwala’s family relocated to France when he was just five years old.
His journey in the world of football would start at Sochaux in 2018.
Les Lionceaux are well known for producing a string of excellent academy products over the years, with the likes of Marcus Thuram and Maxcence Lacroix currently strutting their stuff in the Bundesliga for Borussia Monchengladbach and Wolfsburg respectively.
Kambwala’s rise through the Sochaux ranks was meteoric, and soon he would be captaining his country at the U-16 level.
Meanwhile, dossiers were being compiled at various top sides scattered across Europe detailing Kambwala’s brilliance, and it seemed inevitable that he would not be at Stade Auguste Bonal for very long.
Former British PM Boris Johnson would play a role in hastening that journey.
With the onset of new Brexit laws and regulations which would prohibit British clubs from ever truly targeting U-18 talents in Europe, Manchester United found themselves compelled to embark on a continental signing spree in the summer of 2020.
In came Marc Jurado from Barcelona, Alejandro Garnacho from Atlético Madrid, Isak Hansen-Aarøen from Tromso, Robert Vitek from Sigma Olomouc and Alvaro Fernandez from Real Madrid, but the Red Devils would have to wait until deadline day to pull off the best signing of the lot.
Despite serious interest from bitter rivals Liverpool, United won the race for Kambwala’s signature, but misfortune struck early.
Barely weeks into life in Manchester, Kambwala suffered a severe ankle injury in a nothing game against Salford’s first team, ruling him out for eleven months.
He would make his long-awaited return to action in an 8-2 thrashing of Birmingham City’s Under-18s in the Premier League Cup in October of 2021, but fate was not done inflicting its cruel blows upon the youngster.
Kambwala continued to suffer niggling injuries through the last term, only making a handful of appearances across the 21/22 campaign, but his luck seems to finally be changing.
The youngster has been able to string together a steady run of games, and looks like he is back to his very best.
As The Peoples Person reported earlier, in the wake of injuries to first choice centre back pairing Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane, Kambwala has also been promoted to the first team setup.
The Red Devils have suffered several lapses in defence in recent weeks, against the likes of Sevilla and Tottenham Hotspur, and the elegant Frenchman may be the answer to United’s defensive woes.
Standing at a towering 6’4, Kambwala is a physical specimen who dominates contests in the ground and air with equal ease.
He is no slouch with a burst of pace and raw acceleration which allows him to keep up with the paciest of attackers.
Comfortable on either side of defence, Kambwala possesses a superb range of passing, and despite his massive frame, can turn like a ballerina.
A fantastic goal from Mateo Mejia to take the ball down from Willy Kambwala’s pass and slot it under the keeper. #MUFC #ThePeoplesPerson pic.twitter.com/teB4wW91eP
— The Peoples Person (@_peoplesperson_) April 17, 2023
If things continue to devolve in defence, Erik ten Hag may find himself forced to give the teenager minutes at the highest level.
Many will argue that he may not yet be ready, but the kids did win something in 94′ despite Alan Hansen’s many inhibitions about their abilities, and perhaps this kid will too.
As the old adage goes, ‘If you’re good enough, you’re old enough’, a sentiment which echoes throughout United’s storied history.
Step up, Willy Kambwala, the time is nigh.