Underpaid and underplayed, Raphael Varane is reportedly unhappy with his bit-part role at Real Madrid, with Chelsea waiting in the wings looking to swoop.
But keeping hold of the promising Frenchman could be the most important piece of business Real Madrid do this summer.
The lure of Chelsea will be great for Varane, especially considering the Blues are now managed by Jose Mourinho.
The Portuguese manager plucked the young defender out of relative obscurity and brought him to Real Madrid, where Mourinho was manager at the time.
Mourinho will know Varane’s talents more than most, and may feel the 21-year-old is worthy of earning a place Chelsea’s starting XI perhaps as a long term replacement to John Terry.
Chelsea will also be capable of vastly improving upon his basic £25,000-a-week salary.
Carlo Ancelotti will need to convince the France international. The best way of getting Varane on side will be to give him more game time, but can he displace Sergio Ramos or Pepe?
Will he get his chance?
The 21-year-old has been used mainly as a backup to first choice duo Ramos and Pepe, and made only 14 appearances in La Liga.
His ability is not in question, and Madrid feel comfortable calling upon Varane in times of desperation.
But whether Varane is better than either Ramos or Pepe is questionable, but he is most certainly good enough for the first-team. The Frenchman however does have age on his side, and could potentially pinch Pepe’s place, who will be 32 come the end of the season.
At this stage of his career, Varane cannot play second fiddle to anyone. He needs top flight football every week.
Ancelotti needs to decide whether or not to give in to his demands and secure a promising defender for a decade, or stick with Pepe until his contract runs out in 2016 and look for someone new in the meantime.
Madrid have three quality centre-backs but after those three, options get a little thin. Nacho is capable of playing anywhere along the back line, and has filled in dutifully when needed, but is not at the level of his teammates.
Should Varane leave, it would stretch Madrid’s defensive options, especially considering Real Madrid will be competing of six trophies this season.
Talent in abundance
At 21, Varane is already first team quality and has the potential to reach the very top of the game. Clearly the French national side saw enough during his brief cameos to take him to the World Cup, where he played every match.
Whist Ancelotti may only be around for a few more years, Madridistas now how important Varane is to the future of their club.
Whether it means tying him down to a more lucrative contract, or giving him for first-team minutes, Carlo needs to keep the Frenchman happy.
Of course, Varane will still have to earn his play in the first team, especially after suffering a few injuries. But letting such a talent slip through their fingers would be a mistake that could haunt Madrid for years.
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