According to Diario Madridsta, Manchester United have reportedly identified Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane as the perfect partner for Harry Maguire.
United have been linked with a number of centre-backs, including Sevilla star Jules Kounde, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seeks to strengthen his back four.
But it’s now been suggested by the Spanish publication that Varane is being viewed as a possible alternative.
Offensively, Solskjær’s side have been pretty decent this season – scoring 46 goals in 22 games, that being the most out of any other team in the Premier League.
At the back, however, they have been anything but solid, having conceded three times in as many games prior to the Premier League fixture with Southampton. Furthermore, they have shipped more goals (27) than the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea this season.
If United opt for Varane and make him a key cog in the starting line-up, he’ll easily plug the gap in the defence. He’s averaged 1.4 interceptions and 3.6 clearances per 90 this term in La Liga, earning himself a solid WhoScored match rating of 6.74 overall in the process – this while playing for a team who look far from their best (Madrid lie 10 points behind league leaders Atletico Madrid).
For context, that’s still higher than Victor Lindelof (6.64), which suggests that he would be an immediate upgrade on the 26-year-old. Per WhoScored, the Frenchman’s defensive stats outweigh the Swede in key areas, averaging more interceptions, making far less fouls and boasting a far better passing accuracy when it comes to switching the play – 3.9 accurate long balls compared to two.
His teammate and former Chelsea star Eden Hazard has hailed him as one of the best defenders in history. He recently told franceinfo: “Karim Benzema is very friendly and down-to-earth. He’s here to score goals and win matches. I think he’s shown once again this year that he’s quite simply the best.
“Then you have Raphael Varane. I’ve come across some fantastic defenders during my career, such as John Terry and Vincent Kompany.
“I think that although [Varane] is still young, he’s already one of the best centre-backs of all time. His partnership with Sergio Ramos is wonderful.”
Unlike Lindelof, who has had his fair share of critics over the past couple of years, it’s fair to say that Varane could be the difference-maker. With a big-money centre-back in Harry Maguire already at the club, United could find another high-profile partner for the England international in Varane.
The fact that Solskjaer has used an abundance of centre-backs next to the former Leicester man is quite telling about how he just hasn’t quite found the solution yet, with the likes of Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Axel Tuanzebe and Marcos Rojo among others being given a run-out. But in the £63m-rated Varane, they would be getting someone of serious pedigree and who has played at the highest level for both club and country.
If those at Old Trafford want to assemble a new-look backline, the World Cup winner might be their best bet.