Is Raphaël Varane ready for Manchester United, or another big club?

Going into the season, nobody knew much about Raphaël Varane except for the fact that he was a 17-year old defender for Lens. He was a good young talent and played for the France U-21 team. That is about all that was really known about him.

Now it is nearing the end of the Ligue 1 season, and the question is “where is Varane going?” With his team Lens being relegated to Ligue 2, it is more than likely that Varane will be seeking a few destination. But where would that place be?

Or course, we have heard that Manchester United are on the verge of signing the new French superstar.

But still, at the age of 18 (which he just turned less than a month ago), is he ready for prime time?

First, lets look at his playing ability. Yes, he does have the skills. Though he is classified as a central defender, he has shown that he is versatile on the pitch. And to say “which position is Raphaël Varane the best at”, well, that is maybe a harder question to answer than some might think.

As far as a defender goes, he does show good quality defensive skills, with room for improvement. Not the most aggressive of tacklers (though he has had a few), he still shows the skill to dispossess the opposition of the ball with poise and composer. In addition to solid defending, he plays well in the sweeper position as well. He is good at getting the ball out of dangerous areas by either clearing it or dribbling it out himself. If he were to go to the EPL, I am sure he will be told to do the former.

But even with the defensive skills, he has an extra dimension that makes him a top target as well, and that is his offensive abilities. In a few matches, instead playing center-back, Varane has been moved up to defensive midfielder. In this role, he seems to find a lot more of the pitch, even more so than in a sweeper role. But instead of pushing back, he pushes forward, which helps the entire field of play move with him, helping Lens to create an attack in the opposing end.

While he might not push up the pitch as much as Toulouse’s Moussa Sissoko (who is a box-to-box midfielder, while Varane drifts to the left), he pushes up just enough to help create offensive opportunities, but can drop back defensively if need be.

And when Lens is awarded a corner, he shows great positioning ability and is dangerous within the area.

Therefore, the skills that this player can bring to any team is valuable, especially one that can play multiple positions. True, you can find tons of players that can play both forward and midfielder, but it is a lot harder to find that defender-midfielder combination what works as well defensively as he does offensively.

But with all that said and done…is he ready? Of course, the big “known” is that he is 18-years old. Therefore he is young and has a lot to learn, which can help benefit a team that is good with producing younger talent.

But he has only played in 21 matches this season. Therefore, is it worth paying for a player that is an unknown? Yes, he could be the next young superstar to scream through the EPL, like Cesc Fàbregas. On the other hand, he could be a player that is showing promise in this youth, and just falls flat after a few season, like Alan Smith. Either way, picking up a player with this much buzz at such a young age is a risk, especially when you are signing them to a profession contract right away, unlike these two who were first signed to youth contracts at Arsenal and Leeds.

In addition, since he would be a transfer that would agree to terms to a professional contract, is he willing to spend a few years in Manchester United’s reserves instead being either in the starting eleven or on the bench? Most of the great football players in the EPL didn’t start making regular starts until they were about 20 or 21, and they were signed to youth contracts and in the team’s system already. Therefore, will Varane be willing to make this sacrifice, since he would be a professional player coming in on a transfer deal, to sit with the reserves for one, or maybe two, seasons?

Also, being such a young age, is he ready for a team as big as Manchester United? He would be going from Lens, a team that has been in the relegation zone 19 or the 21 matches that he played, to the EPL champions. While he has performed superbly at Lens, he is at a team that has no real pressure to perform. Since the firing of coach Jean-Guy Wallemme, this team was destined to be relegated. Therefore, was he able to be a little bit more open and creative as far as his play? Have we actually seen the best of Raphaël Varane already? This is where disciplined and playing with the reserves might help.

Even with all of the examination of Raphaël Varane, the big issue is that he is still a big unknown. Yes there is a buzz around him. And since his team is being relegated to Ligue 2, it would benefit him to move from Lens to another team that can help him improve as a player. The question is “where is that team?”

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2 Responses

  1. I sincerely believe the lad should be left alone for now as it is evident that there are other youngsters raring to play football right now within the Man Utd team. With the seeming retirement of Van Der Sar and Gary Neville, my take is that Sir Alex should rather inject more experienced players to take care of that department.

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