One of the greatest young talents only two seasons ago, Raphael Varane finds himself on the bench at the start of the 2014/15 season as he now tries to show everyone that he is still capable of fighting for his spot at Real Madrid.
At only 19 years-old, Raphael Varane was able to become a name known worldwide after his performances against teams such as Barcelona and Manchester United. He scored goals and defended brilliantly against Real Madrid’s fiercest rivals. The potential seemed endless and Jose Mourinho, the Los Blancos manager at the time, knew it all too well as he placed him in the starting line-up instead of Pepe alongside Sergio Ramos. Two years later, things seem to have slowed down quite drastically for the French defender.
After Mourinho’s departure, Carlo Ancelotti was named the manager of Real Madrid and, in the past two years, we haven’t really seen much from Varane. Of course, Ancelotti isn’t the only person to blame here for a few reasons. First of all, ever since Pepe was reinstated into the starting line-up, he has been able to produce some sensational performances in the white shirt which makes it extremely difficult to drop him. Secondly (and more importantly), Raphael Varane has been plagued with injuries to his knee during the past couple of months and that makes it very difficult for him to get a regular run in the team. With that said, there is no denying the fact that he still has the skill and determination to make it anywhere.
The main problem arises when you look at his age. Varane is now 21 years-old and, even though he’s still quite young, he was a starter for France during the FIFA World Cup in Brazil and always seemed to be up for the challenge. At his young age, he is very mature and very capable of holding his own against the best of opponents. His elegance while playing is a joy to watch and his calmness is always present whether it was in the World Cup or during the UEFA Champions League Final against Atletico Madrid. No matter what the situation, he is someone you can depend on.
The negative aspect of his age is that, at 21, he needs to play. Varane needs time on the pitch to grow and get accustomed to playing regularly. Unfortunately, at Real Madrid, this has proven to be a difficult task with all the big names surrounding him. This is not to say that Carlo Ancelotti does not trust Varane’s defending capabilities, but rather that he may feel more comfortable fielding Pepe and Sergio Ramos instead. During Real Madrid’s games against Deportivo La Coruna and Elche in La Liga, Varane was given the opportunity to start both games and did well. His main mistake, which proved to be costly, came against Deportivo when he missed a header which was put into the back of the net. Los Blancos were already winning the game but that doesn’t mean they should get complacent.
Varane’s injury problems are arguably the reason as to why he hasn’t played much yet. With his recovery taking a lot longer than expected, Pepe had more than enough time to cement a place in Carlo Ancelotti’s starting eleven. Because of the injury, the French defender isn’t fully capable of playing the full 90 minutes each week, let alone two games a week. With that, I think we should prepare to see him and Pepe in a rotation system throughout the season with Real Madrid having many games coming up in four different competitions (La Liga, UEFA Champions League, Copa del Rey, and the Club World Cup). With the extension of his contract until 2020, it’s a very clear indication that he is certainly in Ancelotti’s plans but we have to wait and see how often he will be fielded.
Other than that, the Frenchman has proven himself to be a solid defender and knows exactly how to conduct his job in defence. At such a young age, he deserves to play given the fact that he has proven himself more than once. His maturity isn’t seen anywhere else while his eye for passing and tackling is simply a delight to watch. He was also listed in Outside of the Boot‘s list of 100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2014, featuring at #2 in the list of defenders.
If Varane isn’t able to get the chances that he deserves, there is an extremely high risk of losing him in the coming seasons. As I mentioned earlier, he needs minutes and there are many clubs following him and will take advantage of any situation that arises; the temptation of regular football can turn the head of the youngster. Do I personally see him leaving the club anytime soon? No. The reason behind that is because Real Madrid need defenders and it doesn’t really get much better than having Varane as an option. At the moment, Sergio Ramos and Pepe are the preferred starters but Varane is more than capable of fighting for a place. The fact that he signed a new contract shows that he is ready to fight and we should be expecting to see some great performances from the Frenchman this season.
There is no denying the fact that players, especially the younger generation, need time to play. It doesn’t matter how good they are, experience and time on the field will surely improve their way of playing and thinking. They need to be able to play against different oppositions and grow as players. Varane is at a very critical age where playing time could potentially make him or break him and this is the time for Carlo Ancelotti to give him the chances that he deserves. I’m not saying that he should be playing every single game from now on, but we should be expecting to see him on the pitch more often this season. His recent performance against Villarreal certainly helped his case, and added another selection dilemma for the Italian manager.
One thing is guaranteed though: Raphael Varane is not a name that will be disappearing anytime soon.
Written by Ali Al-Hassan
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