Of all the talented youngsters in the world, it is Raphael Varane; centre-half for Real Madrid who is earning rave reviews after producing some outstanding defensive performances for Los Blancos. Varane has received a great deal of game-time recently; cementing his place at the heart of the Real defence alongside Sergio Ramos.
Raphael Varane was born in France in 1993 and started playing for his local football club AS Hellemmes at the age of 7, before joining professional club RC Lens two years later. He was sent to a football training centre nearby where he would train on weekdays and play with Lens at the weekend. He then returned full-time to Lens and it didn’t take him long to progress through the ranks; he became part of a nice looking youth set up which included now Chelsea player Thorgan Hazard and now Sevilla player Geoffrey Kondogbia.For the 2010-11 season he was brought into the first-team picture at Lens, he made 23 appearances that season, scoring two goals in the process. On the 21st May, he was appointed captain of the side for a game against Arles-Avignon; a major achievement for the young starlet. After impressing for Lens, a number of clubs were monitoring his situation and he was being linked with a few clubs.
Then in the summer, Varane moved to Real Madrid after visiting the club’s facilities and meeting with Madrid legend Zinedine Zidane. He signed a six-year deal with the club and it was reported the fee agreed was around 10 million euros. The Frenchman made his club debut in a pre-season friendly against LA Galaxy and then finished the pre-season campaign featuring in 7 of the 8 games Madrid played.
It was always going to be difficult for him to force his way into the first team at Madrid, particularly because he was so young and it was no surprise Varane waited until the 21st September to make his competitive debut for the club in a La Liga game against Racing Santander and then three days later, he started the game against Rayo Vallecano and scored his first goal for the club, making him the youngest foreign goal-scorer in a competitive fixture for Real Madrid. In that same month, Varane was handed his Champions League debut against Ajax, in a game in which Real Madrid emerged victorious with a 3-0 win.
Since then, Raphael Varane has only got better and worked his way into the centre of Jose Mourinho’s plans. For the 2012/13 season, Varane was handed the number 2 shirt and began to feature a little more. The 19-year-old didn’t feature in the first 4 league games, but on 18th September he made his first appearance of the season against Manchester City in the Champions League. Varane reached another mile-stone in the El Clasico on 30th January 2013, he conjured up a phenomenal performance and capped off his marvellous display with the equalising goal, this made him the second-youngest foreign player to score in a Clasico. In the second leg of the tie, Varane grabbed himself another goal in an astonishing 3-1 away victory for Real. He also then went on a good run of games and continued to impress, forming a productive partnership with Sergio Ramos in defence in the process.
Raphael Varane featured in our list of 100 Best Young Players to Watch-out for in 2014. He was at #2 in our list of defenders. See the entire list here.
Strengths, Style and weaknesses
Varane is what some would consider to be the perfect defender, seen as though he is equipped with all the correct attributes to become one of the best defenders of our generation. He is a strong, quick and powerful centre-back who is flawless at bringing the ball out from the back, he is incredibly comfortable on the ball and his decision-making is first-class.
Varane times his tackles and interceptions perfectly and is an excellent reader of the game. France have produced so many world-class defenders over the years and they are all share similar qualities, they are all able to be useful both with and without the ball and that is something that Varane possesses Varane is very reminiscent of former France defender Lillian Thuram, who was an expert at reading the game and was one of the great defenders that have been produced in France.
Varane is also able of starting attacks from the back, with him frequently playing long balls over the top to stretch opposition defences. He has the perfect physique for a central defender; he is of a stocky but tall build, this makes him easily out muscle strikers and also dominate aerially. Varane really does have the perfect package for a defender, his only noticeable weakness is his concentration but for a player of his age, it is understandable.
As aforementioned in the article, one of Varane’s main strong points is his passing. Even as a defender, he is able to find team-mates with easy and is usually successful with the majority of his passes, this can be seen in a stat which shows he has an average pass accuracy of 85% in La Liga; meaning he has the 3rd best pass accuracy of all the Madrid defenders. He has created a total of 2 chances this season, which is not many but just shows that the Frenchman is useful with the ball at times and can be involved in attack as well as defence.
In total, he has made 19 appearances this season and he has been used most frequently in the Champions League where he has featured 7 times; it is evident that Jose Mourinho rates him very highly and is not afraid to use him in the big games. He tends to get the better of opposition strikers and thrives when in an individual battle; he has won 67% of his average duels in La Liga. Another stat shows that he has not made a single defensive error in La liga this season; something I deem to be exceptional and it just shows his decision-making in defensive situations.
In all truth, he hasn’t appeared as much as the other Real Defenders but with a performance rating of 7 on WhoScored and a Performance score of 304 on Squawka, it is evident to see how impressive he has been in the games he has played in.
Many clubs across the world have registered an interest in Varane, but with him playing at such a massive club like Madrid, it would seem ludacris for him to move away from the Bernabeu. He signed a six-year deal upon his arrival at the club in 2011, so if the French prodigy was to leave Los Blancos, it would take a huge transfer fee.
Jose Mourinho clearly rates Varane or else he wouldn’t have played him in such big games against Barcelona and Man United and for me that means as long as Mourinho is in charge, Varane will remain a Madrid player and will not move away from a club I think he will go on to have massive success with.
You can also view this article on Josh’s own blog here
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