WHO: Raphael Varane
FROM WHERE: Real Madrid
TO WHERE: Man United
FOR HOW MUCH: £41m ($56m)
GRADE FOR MAN UNITED: A
GRADE FOR REAL MADRID: B-
In 2011, Manchester United first registered concrete interest to sign a then 18-year-old Raphael Varane. In 2021, after years of chasing him, they’ve finally made him a Red Devil! This probably ends the longest ‘transfer saga’ in the club’s history. The phrase echoed by the club’s hierarchy now should be: ‘Better late than never’!
That being said, United are actually getting Varane in his best years. He’s still 28 – widely considered as ‘the peak’ for a defender – and comes with a wealth of experience any Premier League side would crave for. Having won 19 major trophies in his career, the Red Devils are getting a natural-born winner & ability-wise – one of the best centre-backs in Europe.
Raphael Varane to Manchester United Transfer Grade
WHO IS HE?
Varane is a 28-year-old France international who has made over 70 appearances for his nation. He started his career coming up the youth system of Ligue 1 side RC Lens & made 23 appearances for them.
The Frenchman was snapped up by Real Madrid at the age of 18 in 2011 & enjoyed an extremely decorated career with Los Blancos. He made more than 350 appearances for them, winning 3 La Liga titles, 4 Champions League titles, 4 FIFA Club World Cups as well as the Copa Del Rey once. Moreover, Varane also won the 2018 FIFA World Cup with France.
IS THE PRICE FAIR?
Even in the current transfer market, United have managed to strike a real bargain for Varane’s signing. The Red Devils will be paying £34m+add-ons to Real Madrid – with the deal potentially rising to around £41m ($56m) if all bonuses are paid.
Considering that Varane has so much experience under his belt & is considered as one of Europe’s best defenders, that is a very good deal. As long as the French centre-back can prove his class by helping United become one of the strongest defensive sides in Europe next season, this fee will seem like peanuts.
THE KYLIAN MBAPPE EFFECT
There’s a reason why Real Madrid even sanctioned this sale. They are not selling off experienced, crucial first-teamers for anything. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the La Liga giants’ finances have suffered losses. They don’t have the unreal money to make ‘Galactico’ signings easily anymore.
As a result, they’re aiming to use money from selling players to sign long-term target Kylian Mbappe. Madrid envisions the young French forward to take them to the next level in the future. But Mbappe won’t come cheap. PSG will want the upwards of £100m to sell him – even if he has just one year on his contract.
Getting this money from United gives Madrid the finances they need to now pursue the Mbappe deal. They can put this amount into preparing a mega-bid for the PSG star & make arguably the biggest transfer of the summer.
WHAT IMPACT CAN WE EXPECT?
Last season, United maintained a decent enough defensive record – apart from a few games where they conceded too many goals. However, there always seemed to be missing link at the back – with Harry Maguire often having to adapt to different partners by his side.
As a result, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has signed a world-class defender who can accompany and get the very best out of the United captain. Varane is actually the same age as Maguire but definitely triumphs over him in terms of experience.
The Frenchman has been brought aboard because he basically has the qualities which often tend to be Maguire’s weak points. Varane is surprisingly fast & is extremely well-positioned & disciplined at the back. He is the kind of defender who can cover for his teammates and allow his fellow centre-back to be more aggressive – as he did with Sergio Ramos at Madrid.
Moreover, even if Maguire is rested for games or succumbs to injury, Varane can act like a leader at the back for United. He has captain Real Madrid in the past & knows how to marshall his troops well. Varane is more than capable of playing with either Victor Lindelof or Eric Bailly – both occasionally erroneous – and produce good results.
The Frenchman is strong in the air & wins aerial duels with ease. He topped the aerial duels won ranking among any defender in La Liga last season. He’s also clutch with last-ditch tackles or clearances, being very agile inside the box. Last season, he averaged 2.4 aerial duels won, 3.5 clearances & 1.2 interceptions per game in La Liga (stats via WhoScored). Maguire was the only United centre-back with similar or better stats than him.
Varane also helped Los Blancos keep 17 clean sheets in 41 appearances last season. They also maintained the second-best defensive record in La Liga thanks to the Frenchman’s heroics. Because of his intelligent game-reading ability, composure & proactiveness at the back – the Frenchman helps those around him improve.
Not just Maguire, but he should also allow young right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka more freedom to march forward in hunt of more goal contributions. He possesses excellent passing ability & can carry the ball forward with ease.
With a progressive defender like Varane, United don’t have to protect their backline with 2 defensive midfielders and urge their midfielders to be more advanced up the pitch. The Frenchman is also excellent in set-pieces – be it defending or scoring.
United conceded more than 10 goals from set-pieces last season, with teams often targeting that vulnerability to hurt them. But with a commanding centre-back in Varane, that aspect should improve by loads. Varane’s scoring ability from corners or free-kicks should also give United’s attacking set-pieces more of a threat.
Despite all his heroics, one worrying aspect about Varane is his recently picked-up knack of fitness issues. Last season, he struggled with a slight leg injury that kept him out for some games. Varane isn’t one like Maguire to play every single minute of a 60+games season. As long as he’s used properly & given timely rest, he should excel in the biggest games – especially in the Champions League nights because of his winning experience.
The Red Devils are getting a gem of a defender who might take time to adapt to the Premier League, but should help further solidify their backline in the long-run. Varane has (literally) won it all in his career – and that winning mentality could be key towards helping the Red Devils put an end to their 4+ year trophy drought & finally win big silverware next season.
Man United (A)
The Red Devils are really knocking it out of the park with their transfers this summer. Varane should be the perfect partner for Maguire & help United keep many clean sheets going forward. As long as he’s able to stay clear of injuries & replicate the heroics from Madrid, the Frenchman could turn out to be a season-defining signing that helps bring back the glory days to Old Trafford.
Real Madrid (B-)
Sure, Madrid gets the money to help them execute ‘Operation Mbappe’ & sign the PSG youngster, but losing Varane could cause major problems next season. They lose a leader who was key towards maintaining their strong defensive record for the past few years. Don’t be surprised if Los Blancos start leaking goals left, right & centre without Varane next season.