Raphael Varane has been threatening to become a world-class central defender for a number of years but injuries and limited first-team opportunities have often prevented him from fulfilling his vast potential at Real Madrid.
Yet, as France qualified for the World Cup final to go with their spot in the finale of their home European Championship two years ago, Varane put in a performance that felt like he finally came of age.
Belgium’s approach to getting back into proceedings once Samuel Umtiti had opened the scoring early in the second half largely centred around swinging in crosses from the right flank towards Romelu Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini, but Varane was equal to the aerial bombardment.
Ably assisted by Manchester United’s Paul Pogba in front of him, Varane showed the kind of defensive dominance and resilience Jose Mourinho desperately needs at Old Trafford to close out the match with relative ease.
Eric Bailly is a talented but raw central defender and Varane is finally showing the maturity that would allow him to be the senior man in a defensive partnership.
There is a strong argument that Varane would be the best defender in the Premier League and ensure the club has the best central-back partnership in the division if he were to arrive to play alongside Bailly at United, and a deal between Mourinho and his former club would elevate the Red Devils to become genuine title challengers.