Raphael Varane looks set to take Manchester United by storm.
The Red Devils have reached an agreement to sign the Real Madrid defender for around £41million.
Varane is likely to be unveiled as a United player next week and join Jadon Sancho as the next high-profile arrival at Old Trafford.
It is hard to believe Varane is only 28 years old given he seems to have been around for such a long time.
Relatively unknown to football fans while playing for Lens as a teenager, Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson knew all about him.
The legendary manager wanted to sign Varane in 2011, before Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid’s newly appointed sporting director at the time, intervened.
And what a signing he turned out to be. Winning three LaLiga titles, four Champions League trophies and a Copa del Rey in a 10-year spell is not bad going. Oh, and he’s also won the World Cup with France.
Jose Mourinho gave Varane his senior debut at Real Madrid as an 18-year-old and would later go on to rank him as the world’s best defenders a few years later.
“He is still young, but I think he’s the best,” the manager said. “Already, yes. I think he’s the best defender.”
And Varane gets plenty of compliments from his fellow professionals, too, with Eden Hazard echoing Mourinho’s claim.
“I’ve come across some fantastic defenders during my career, such as John Terry and Vincent Kompany,” he said last year.
“I think that although [Varane] is still young, he’s already one of the best centre-backs of all time.”
Having one of the ‘best centre-backs of all time’ alongside Harry Maguire is increasing expectation at Manchester United for the upcoming season.
“When I’ve seen Man United in trouble in games, a lot of the time teams have been given a bit of confidence or seen a chink in the armour of Man United when they see they can get people one vs one or play the ball over the defence, into one of the channels and then it’s a race,” Rio Ferdinand explained.
“We haven’t had the players quick enough to do that in the centre-back areas,” he added as he lauded the winning mentality of Varane.
“If you get someone like him, people start thinking ‘well we ain’t gonna play the ball over the top cos Varane is gonna eat that up.’ Someone like him, he’ll bring that authority I hope to the back line.”
And Ferdinand’s former teammate, Patrice Evra, believes the new centre-back is quite similar to the legendary no.5.
“Great with the ball, great in the air. He’s the complete centre-back,” he said.
“I remember his first game with the French national team and I was so impressed. He was so young yet so good with the ball, so fast and his anticipation was perfect.
“He’s calm with the ball and he can score too. It’s a top, top signing for Manchester United.”
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been backed in the transfer window and will be expected to end the club’s four-year trophy drought.
Varane’s quality in defence could actually lead to a more attacking team for United.
Solskjaer was more or less forced to play a defensive midfield two of Scott McTominay and Fred in big matches last season.
This would have been largely down to the manager’s concern over his backline with Maguire’s lack of pace and the unpredictability of whoever was partnering him.
However, with Varane next to Maguire, the former’s impressive pace could get United out of a lot of sticky situations and allow Solskjaer to be more adventurous with his midfield selections.
In fact, it could lead to Donny van de Beek getting a proper run in the first-team alongside Bruno Fernandes if Paul Pogba leaves for Paris Saint-Germain.
The Dutchman started just four Premier League matches after joining for £35m from Ajax last summer.
Dream Team 2021/22 – SIGN UP NOW
PLAY DREAM TEAM FOR THE 2021/22 SEASON!
- £100,000 in prize money up for grabs
- £50million budget to build your best XI
- Play in Mini Leagues against your mates, colleagues, etc
- Click here to play for FREE
- Dream Team app available through Apple Store and Google Play Store
Another sign of how highly-rated Varane is came last year when Gary Neville put him in his top 10 fantasy draft picks… ahead of Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk.
Explaining his decision, the Manchester United legend said: “I put Varane ahead of Van Dijk purely because this moment in time Varane’s won so many European cups, he’s an amazing player.
“You can’t separate their talent, but Varane’s a brilliant player.”
Despite the excitement surrounding Varane’s transfer to Manchester United, former Leeds and England defender Danny Mills has reservations about the arrival.
He told talkSPORT: “You just don’t know with foreign players coming in.
“He’s had his injury problems – when you look at his average he plays around 20 games a season in LaLiga.
“Ten years there and 210 league games, so he’s obviously had his injury concerns.
“A lot of those games are against seriously inferior opposition. This not the standard of the Premier League, robustness or intensity of the Premier League.
“I’m not doubting whether he’s a fantastic player but I’m just questioning whether he’ll be able to cope with the rigours of the Premier League.”
One thing is for sure, Manchester United are buying a world-class defender.