Renowned for being a calm and composed presence at the back, it came as something of a shock to the system to see Raphael Varane make two catastrophic errors that led to Real Madrid’s exit from the Champions League on Friday night, with Manchester City moving past the Spanish giants and into the competition’s quarter finals.
Without Sergio Ramos alongside him, Varane looked lost, but he shouldn’t have. This certainly wasn’t the first time the Frenchman had played alongside Eder Militao at the back, but the lack of familiarity between the two defenders was brutally exposed by Manchester City’s high-pressing game. Varane in particular just couldn’t cope with it, although Militao was uncomfortable at times too.
The two mistakes made by Varane, one in either half, were extremely out of character for a player who has become renowned for his steady hand. They also came at the end of an exceptional season for the 27-year-old. Indeed, in terms of the standard of his performances, the 2019/20 season might well have been the best of Varane’s career.
Ramos is still the dominant influence in defence for Real Madrid, but this was the season during which Varane began to match him in this regard. Varane has been a solid presence at the back for Los Blancos for a number of years, boasting elite level experience well beyond his years, but this season saw him reach new heights.
That his campaign ended in the way it did at the Etihad Stadium on Friday night was an anomaly and not a reflection of his form or the player. Zidane must take a share of the blame for not setting up his team adequately to resist the high press he surely knew his players were bound to face away to Manchester City.
Varane truly is one of the best central defenders operating at the top of the European game today. He has won it all, from La Liga to the Champions League to the World Cup, and is still only 27. The Frenchman won’t be shaken from that standing easily. His mistakes against Manchester City might have been costly, ultimately sending Real Madrid out of the Champions League, but they won’t define him. Varane has achieved too much this season, and over the course of his career to date, for that to be the case.
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