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In 2011, Raphael Varane joined Real Madrid and Phil Jones joined Manchester United. Ten years on, Raphael Varane is joining Manchester United and Phil Jones is, well, not joining Real Madrid.
United could come full circle if Varane is assigned Jones’s number. He should be, even if it is not a traditional centre half’s number. Six is and that could be available soon.
When Jones last played for United the club had not signed Bruno Fernandes. He has been sidelined for over a year with a knee injury and, unfortunately, is as unsellable as he is unusable. His number might as well be revoked.
Varane has won more European Cups than United, got his hands on the World Cup three years ago and is still hungry enough to leave the comfort zone of Madrid for the challenge of making United champions again.
Rio Ferdinand peddled the myth on Twitter that Varane was using United to obtain more lucre from Madrid, which was never the case. United knew from the outset they were not being led down the garden path like with Sergio Ramos in 2015.
Madrid, mindful Ramos was likely to run his contract down, included the club captaincy in their offer to Varane, who felt his salary was still not reflective of his status. A wage hike is inevitable at United and it is merited for one of modern football’s most garlanded players. Varane, an English-speaker, will bring gravitas to a dressing room lacking winners.
You need only view the footage of Varane rallying the France players at the interval of the World Cup final, with the match tightly poised at 2-1, with Antoine Griezmann’s penalty the only difference. Within 20 minutes of the restart, France were 4-1 up.
Varane and Harry Maguire is a championship-challenging partnership. Maguire and Victor Lindelof was not. Maguire has attained world-class status in the last two months and Varane has been one of the world’s best centre halves for the best part of a decade.
Sir Alex Ferguson said United should have locked Maguire inside the Old Trafford boardroom until he signed a contract and probably shares a similarly high opinion of Varane, another one who got away a decade ago. Varane was institutionally rated at United, a player who united the views of characters as diverse as Jose Mourinho, Ed Woodward, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and John Murtough.
Woodward repeatedly referenced Varane as the ultimate marquee defensive signing. Unfortunately for Woodward, he is unlikely to still be at United to reap the benefits of the overhaul he has overseen.
Industry figures who deal with footballers on a daily basis say Varane is the most self-critical player they have ever encountered. During the European Championship, he requested clips of opponents on 48 hours’ notice, leaving no stone unturned in his strive for perfection.
Varane has already studied snippets of United’s defending and specifically asked for clips of their set-piece organisation. He was informed it would be a waste of time, as United were so hopeless at defending dead-ball situations last term. They have just appointed a set-piece coach in Eric Ramsey.
Antony Varane, Raphael’s brother, speaks English fluently, which has influenced his impending move to Manchester. Varane and his wife, Camille, have been together since 11th grade and have two young children to accompany them in England’s north-west.
Those who know Varane say he is not remotely flash and believe Madrid underestimated his understated appearance. Varane, an English-speaker, will bring gravitas to a dressing room lacking winners. Varane is lucid to the commercial benefits of playing for United but the professional challenge trumps the lucre of potential sponsorships.
You could scent Varane-to United – literally. Varane plugged the Boss fragrance ‘United’ to coincide with the European Championship. How United’s commercial department must wish they could have bottled that.
Spotted on week off last month: pic.twitter.com/5XJ1J099Kv
— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst)
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