Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why Real Madrid should be delighted to beat Manchester United to rising star Raphael Varane

Raphael Varane is a young defender who has certainly got people talking.

Since breaking into the Lens first XI amid an injury crisis during the autumn, his reputation as a prodigious talent has grown exponentially, though he has long been courted by the likes of Manchester United, who continue to maintain an interest in the 18-year-old.

It is, however, Real Madrid who have seemingly claimed victory in the chase for the France Under-21 international, aided by the words of legendary World Cup-winner Zinedine Zidane. The revered midfielder reportedly played a significant role in persuading the youngster that he would have an opportunity to shine under the Bernabeu’s lights as a first-team squad member.

To win the race for his signature was no easy task. Paris Saint-Germain and hometown club Lille both offered guarantees of regular football from the outset, while the lure of the Premier League was also appealing, with Arsenal rumoured to have made a late rally to secure his services.

“What I want is to go to the club that will make me progress the most,” Varane told. “Another season in Ligue 1, yes, it may be beneficial but there is a choice. There are pros and cons, so it will be for me to decide.”

Clearly, Varane is a young man with a mature head on his shoulders, and this is reflected to a great extent in his play. Many critics have commented upon his grasp of the tactical side of the game, as he is rarely drawn into the kind of cheap errors that more established countrymen such as Adil Rami can find themselves making. Indeed, he has often featured as the sweeping defender in a back four, covering intelligently due to his reading of the game.

Though he lacks in experience, the Nord-Pas de Calais native is certainly equipped with all the attributes that will allow him to make it to the top of the game. As well as a sound mind, he is blessed with a frame that belies his years, and his solid build means that he is already able to tussle competitively with the majority of strikers, while he is also fleet of foot, allowing him to recover from any slips that are made by those alongside him.

Coming from a stable of promising young teenagers that also includes fellow centre-back Geoffrey Kondogbia and Thorgan Hazard, Eden’s 18-year-old brother, Varane receives top billing, and given his outstanding contribution for Lens in the second half of last season, it is little wonder.

But there is, of course, a mammoth chasm to be bridged between playing for the Ligue 2 side and the nine-time European champions. 

Lens president Gervais Martel offered his support to the teenager on Wednesday when he revealed the club were in talks with the Spanish giants, signalling a belief that Varane, who has also been employed as a holding midfielder, can be a genuine factor in Spain next season. “Some believe that Raphael will not play [first team football] there,” he told the club's official website. “I can tell you he will not go to Real Madrid to repaint the changing rooms!”

Varane will certainly have a fight on his hands to play with any regularity in the Spanish capital, and there has even been talk that his performance over pre-season will be closely monitored by coach Jose Mourinho, who may then opt to send the player back to France on loan for a year.

With the much-coveted Sergio Canales left to rot on the bench for much of last term, the Frenchman will certainly want to avoid a similar fate as his talent deserves a stage on which to impress – and those don’t come any bigger than Real Madrid.


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