In August 2021, Raphael Varane transferred from Real Madrid, the dominant club in Spain, to Manchester United.
Raphael Varane was a player that Manchester United knew exactly what kind of player they were about to inherit when they decided to spend up to £43 million to secure his signature in August 2021.
The Frenchman had spent exactly ten years—ten trophy-filled years—with the Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid. During his tenure in the Spanish capital, he amassed 18 significant victories, including three La Liga championships and four Champions League trophies.
Varane was a natural winner who was at ease playing in high-pressure situations because he had played with players like Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, and Cristiano Ronaldo. During his time with Los Blancos, he had won nearly everything a football player could hope to obtain, including the World Cup on the international stage with France.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a former manager of United, gave this justification for the club’s choice to sign him: “I’m absolutely delighted that we have been able to secure one of the best defenders in the world over the last ten years. Raphael is a proven winner who we have tracked over a long period of time and we know just how much of a dedicated professional he is.
“We have great depth of international defenders and he will add his immense skill set and leadership to that group. He is a unique defender with a rare combination of top-level attributes that I know will rub off on our younger players.
Manchester United have three transfer priorities this summer.
“He has won everything there is to win but I know that he is still determined to succeed, I can’t wait to welcome him into the squad. “.
Though injuries have stopped Varane from being an ever-present figure since joining United, he has been magnificent in almost all of his 60 appearances for the club so far. He returned from a recent injury lay-off against Wolves on Saturday and was excellent, justifying the standing ovation he earned when he was taken off by Erik ten Hag and replaced by Harry Maguire with 81 minutes on the clock.
He is a Rolls Royce of a defender that oozes confidence both in and out of possession. He is a fantastic leader, and there is no doubt about how important he is to United’s defense.
Though he is currently sidelined for the rest of the season through a fractured metatarsal bone in his foot, Lisandro Martinez has been Varane’s first choice centre-back partner this season and they have developed a strong rapport in the heart of United’s defence. They are both fuelled on passion and hunger to succeed and they have built United’s best central-defensive partnership since the days of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
But despite Varane’s importance at United, he occupies the squad number that you would least associate with a centre-back out of the club’s four senior central-defenders. The former France international currently dons the No. 19 shirt while shirts 2, 5, and 6 are occupied by Victor Lindelof, Maguire and Martinez, respectively.
Though the days of 1-11 are long gone, some players, not that it matters all that much – certainly not in the grand scheme of things, are very particular about what number they sport on their back. For example, United had to seek ratification from the Premier League for Edinson Cavani to give up his No. 7 shirt at the time of Ronaldo’s return to United once the 2021/22 campaign had got underway.
Varane, on the other hand, has worn a handful of numbers throughout his career, including 2, 4, 5, 4 and 19. The defender snapped up the No. 19 shirt upon his arrival at Old Trafford and he has worn it ever since.
However, as was reported by the Manchester Evening News at the time, the Frenchman wanted to take the No. 4 shirt but was blocked from doing so by Phil Jones. The former England international has donned it ever since his arrival at United in 2011 and he declined to give up the iconic number.
However, Jones is set to headline United’s released list at the end of this season, meaning his 12-year stay at Old Trafford is set to come to an end. The former Blackburn Rovers man has not trained all season, has started just two matches in three years and is out of contract at the end of next month.
His expected exit will free up the No. 4 shirt for the first time in more than a decade, paving the way for Varane to earn the shirt number he originally wanted at the time of his arrival almost two years ago. He deserves an upgraded number, just as Bruno Fernandes did last summer when he swapped the No. 18 shirt for No. 8 after Juan Mata’s exit.
Admittedly, it will make little difference to the way Varane plays, nor will it make him better, but players can often suit a certain shirt number. Varane and the No. 4 shirt feel like a perfect combination.