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Everything you need to know about Man United’s new defender Raphael Varane

SPORTS By Robert Abong'o | July 27th 2021

 Raphael Varane celebrates after scoring the opener during the Russia 2018 World Cup quarter-final football match between Uruguay and France at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on July 6, 2018. [AFP, Mladen Antonov]

In May 2016, when Manchester United’s new manager Jose Mourinho sat down for his first press conference, he made an interesting claim about a young defender.

The ‘Special One’, often viewed as a manager who prefers big-money signings and experience, was asked about his record in youth development, to which he gave a defiant response. 

"Yes, it's [youth development] very important; Scott McTominay is only the best player at Manchester United. Raphael Varane is one of the best players in the world; yes, it's fair criticism," said a sarcastic Mourinho. 

Mourinho was right. 

Fast forward, July 2021, Raphael Varane is a World Champion with France and more. 

The Real Madrid defender, now Manchester United bound, has won 18 titles including four Champions Leagues, four FIFA Club World Cups, three Spanish league titles, three SuperCoppas, three UEFA Super Cups and one Copa Del Rey. 

Mourinho has always been an admirer of the 28-year-old Frenchman, having brought him to Real Madrid from Lens in 2011 as a teenager.

Varane has also not hidden his respect for Mourinho, with the defender admitting in 2016 the Portuguese boss tried to sign him at Man United. 

"It was flattering to hear of United's interest. Mourinho is the one who made me come to Real Madrid and they are a great club. But at the moment Madrid and I are in sync and I had no questions to ask. I always said that I felt good in Madrid. It is not easy to say no to Jose Mourinho, but you have to weigh the pros and cons,” Varane told Spanish outlet Canal Plus.

However, five years later, Varane is about to sign for Man United for a bargain 41 million pounds including add-ons, subject to a medical.

Here’s a brief summary of Varane’s career:

Born on April 25, 1993, Raphael Xavier Varane began started his playing career at the age of seven, for local club AS Hellemmes. 

In 2002, Varane joined RC Lens and played for the Under-16s and won the Championnat National des 16 ans in 2009 alongside the likes of teammates Geoffrey Kondogbia and Thorgan Hazard. 

He was later promoted to the under-19 team, where he signed his first professional contract ahead of the 2010/11 season. He was again promoted to the reserve team in the Championnat de France amateur.

Former French footballer Jean-Guy Walleme, now manager at Fréjus Saint-Raphaël in National 2, called up Varane to the Lens senior team and was named in the starting line up in a 2-0 victory against Montpellier in November 2010. 

Varane in action with Denmark's Pione Sisto [Reuters, Gleb Garanich]

After great performances for Lens, Varane became the subject of interest at the start of 2011, with several European clubs mooted to have contemplated signing him. On February 3, 2011, he signed a contract extension with Lens. 

In the summer of 2011, Varane made his big move when it was announced he would be a Real Madrid player, playing under Mourinho. Varane signed a six-year contract with Los Blancos, on a purported transfer fee in the range of 10 million euros. He was handed the Number 19 shirt. 

He made his competitive debut for Real Madrid on September 21, 2011 and later made history after scoring in a 6-2 win against Rayo Vallecano; the youngest foreign player to score a goal in a competitive match for Real Madrid (18 years and 152 days). He made his UEFA Champions League debut in a 3–0 group stage victory over Ajax on September 27, 2011. 

He switched to the number 2 shirt before the start of the 2012/13 season and made his El Classico debut in the 2012 Copa del Rey. 

After an exemplary campaign, Varane was named in the "Best foreign eleven” in Real Madrid’s history.

He signed a new six-year contract at Madrid in September 2014. He was part of the team that won the UEFA Champions League in 2016, and the La Liga in 2017. He was also a starter in the final when Madrid won the 2017 Champions League. 

Varane saw his contract extended until 2022 in the 2017/18 season.

He was included in the 2018 Ballon d’Or 30-man shortlist, where he placed seventh in the final ranking.

In the summer of 2018, Varane had an excellent tournament with France at the FIFA World Cup, where he became World Champion.

International career: 

Varane earned caps with the France youth team at u-18 and u-21 levels. He made his debut with the under-18s team in August 2010 in a friendly against Denmark. 

In February 2011, he was called up to the under-21 team for the first time in a friendly against Slovakia.

In the summer of 2012, he was called up to the senior team in a friendly against Uruguay. He, however, did not play and had to wait for his senior debut until March 2013 in a World Cup qualifier against Georgia. He was part of Didier Deschamps squad for the 2014 World Cup, in a campaign that saw France exit the tournament in the quarter-finals. Varane was included on the three-man shortlist for the tournament's Best Young Player award.

He became the youngest player to captain France against Armenia in a friendly. He scored his first international goal while captaining France in a home friendly against Sweden in November.

Varane got a callup to the 23-man French squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. He played every minute of the tournament, starting all seven games. He scored In the quarterfinal against Uruguay.

France went on to win their second FIFA World Cup, Varane a focal point in their success. 

He became only the fourth player to be a World Cup champion and Champions League winner in the same year. 

He featured in Euros for France and partnered PSG’S Presnel Kimpembe at the back. 

He is now close to becoming a Manchester United player. 

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