One transfer rumour that refuses to go away is Chelsea’s interest in Real Madrid’s young French defender Raphael Varane. That Chelsea are interested in signing him should be no surprise – he is an impressive talent with huge potential. What is a bit of a shock is that Real have done nothing to bat the speculation away.
When we considered possible replacements for David Luiz on this website last week, we came to the conclusion that the Champions League winners would be mad to let Varane go. Here’s why:
At 21, Varane is possibly the most accomplished young centre-back in Europe. Under Mourinho, he ousted the perennial Real favourite Pepe from the starting line-up. He’s strong, intelligent and quick, an excellent reader of play, and his tactical awareness belies his tender years.
The legendary Spanish international defender Hierro says: “There is no central defender in the world like Varane. For his age, his understanding of the game is amazing. He has the maturity of somebody who has been playing 20 years.”
And Bixente Lizarazu, France’s World Cup-winning left-back enthused: “We are talking about a kid who has unseated Pepe, and Pepe is still a great centre-half. Varane’s performance against Manchester United [in the Champions League 2012/13] was amazing.”
He has certainly impressed Mourinho, who bought him from Lens and then installed him in Real’s first-team – and presumably has a good relationship with his former boss. But is he as admired by his current coach, Carlo Ancelotti?
He’s struggled to keep his place in the Real first team this year, hampered by an injury picked up at the end of last season. He’s been limited to a handful of games, and only played in the Champions league final because Pepe was ruled out through injury.
However, Varane does have a six-year contract with Los Blancos, so Real can afford to wait before giving him his opportunity. They are in no end-of-contract rush to cash in on his value. And they must be aware that, at 31, Pepe is nearing the end of his career as a top-class central defender.
If Real are in no hurry to sell, the other possibility would be that Varane will agitate for a move in order to get off the subs’ bench. At present, that looks unlikely. He has no history of causing trouble and appears to be aware that if he bides his time, his chance will come. Besides, if he did come to Chelsea, he’d be stuck behind the Terry-Cahill partnership in the immediate future.
The other question is whether Chelsea need him. The Blues are blessed with talented young centre-backs, such as Tomas Kalas and Kenneth Omeruo, not to mention their January signing Kurt Zouma. But the likelihood is that all three will be out on loan next season. And the question isn’t really whether Chelsea need Varane, but whether they should do all in their power to secure the services of a centre-back likely to become one of the best in world football?