Manchester United were linked with 21-year-old French centre-back Raphaël Varane back in 2011 when, as a teenager, he took Ligue 1 by storm making 23 appearances helping Lens to finish in their highest ever league position. The deal never materialised and although it is thought an offer was submitted, Varane chose rather to move to Spanish giants Real Madrid, a showcase of the potential that he had promised.
An imposing figure at 6ft 3, Varane still has some growth left in him and although he still has a slender build for a centre-back, he more than makes up for it in sheer pace. Undoubtedly one of the quickest defenders in La Liga, he has a similar mould to our own Chris Smalling, although is undoubtedly a more accomplished footballer. On the ball, he is calm and methodical, rarely putting a foot wrong. Most impressive is his ability to stay on his feet and not fly into rash challenges, which gives Real Madrid another option as Sergio Ramos and Pepe are both notoriously hot-headed when challenging.
He could fill a huge void at Old Trafford, left by the departures of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand this summer. It is the latter who he most reminds me of. His stature, pace and footballing ability are extremely reminiscent of Rio in his prime, always managing to create time and seek a pass. He even has that slight petulance to his character that Rio has, as highlighted by his antics in Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final which, may I add, he had an outstanding game in.
There is no doubt he has an old head on young shoulders and huge potential to be one of the best ball playing Centre-backs in the world, perfect for Manchester United. But exactly how realistic is a pursuit in the player and more importantly, would he be happy to join. Although reports this morning suggest that Varane is linked with United, he has also been strongly linked with a move to Chelsea. Jose Mourinho is a huge admirer of the French International, having given him his breakthrough at Madrid last season. Furthermore, with Kurt Zouma and more than likely Eliaquim Mangala at the heart of Chelsea’s defence for years to come, it is an attractive proposition for Varane to go and play alongside his compatriots.
These factors could be a stumbling block for United, along with the fact that Pepe is growing no younger and less rash in his elder age. Varane must be fancying his chances at holding down a regular spot for the ten time European Champions next season and beyond.
Regardless, there is no doubt in my mind that Raphael Varane will become one of the best defenders in world football in years to come, and any interest from Manchester United would be greatly welcomed by the fans.
By Jonathan Evans
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