It’s rare that a world class footballer becomes available for transfer at the peak of his career when he’s playing for one of the two big boys in Spain.
Barcelona and Real Madrid are known to be the pinnacle of the sport for the vast majority of footballers, especially those who grow up in mainland Europe.
That includes defender Raphael Varane, who achieved a lifelong dream when he signed for Los Blancos as a teenager back in 2011 in a €10m move from Lens. After ten years at the Bernabeu, Varane has achieved everything there is to achieve several times over.
He has won La Liga three times, the Champions League four times, the World Club Cup four times and even won the World Cup with France back in 2018 – playing every minute of every game in the tournament.
So when news comes out that he is considering leaving the club, and that Real Madrid are considering allowing it since he only has a year left on his contract, the entire football world should be standing and paying attention.
At the front of that queue should be Manchester United, who have been desperate to add to their defensive ranks for a while now. After spending £80m on Harry Maguire, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seemingly thought his defensive issues were solved. He couldn’t have been more wrong.
While United have improved defensively, they still have a glaring weakness in the heart of their back line. They lack genuine leadership, despite Maguire being given the armband part way through his debut season at the club. They lack pace but more than all of that they lack a winning mentality with quality.
Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly have both been tried alongside Maguire, with both having their own flaws. The Swede is reliable in terms of fitness and has had a pretty good season, but isn’t physically strong enough and is often targeted by opposition strikers. Bailly is in his fifth season with the club and has already been caught by Maguire in the club’s appearances chart.
While Varane had his own injury troubles at the start of his career, he has become one of the most reliable defenders in the world in terms of availability but also in terms of performance.
He has been a stalwart alongside Sergio Ramos in a successful Madrid side and is the leader of the French national team in the changing room along with Hugo Lloris and Paul Pogba.
While he is without a doubt one of the fastest centre backs around, there is more to his game than just speed. He is excellent in all physical aspects, able to battle against the strongest strikers in a one-on-one duel while also being able to use his positioning and his aerial prowess.
He’s the total package when it comes to defenders and has spent the vast majority of his career alongside the best defenders in the world. At 27 years old, he has done it all and now reportedly wants a new challenge.
It’s worth remembering he nearly joined United before Real Madrid, until Zinedine Zidane stepped in and convinced his fellow countryman to join the all-whites in Spain. Sir Alex Ferguson then completed a move for Phil Jones instead – but the less said about that the better.
There’s always the concern in the back of your mind that this is a ploy from the player’s representatives to try and secure a new bumper contract at his club and United should absolutely be wary of that.
However, if it turns out to be genuine and Varane really is available, then there is no point looking elsewhere for a centre back to bolster your back line. Sometimes blessings are hidden and sometimes they’re hidden in plain sight – this is one of those instances.
If Varane is available, United must sign him. No debate, no question marks, no matter the fee.