In a footballing world of high-priced players and free-spending super clubs, determining an appropriate value for players is not always easy. This is particularly true at bigger clubs, where certain players may have an overinflated value because of their talented supporting cast.
That is why Raphael Varane, the young defender currently receiving rave reviews at Real Madrid, is proving to be the best value player in the world right now. Playing for the richest club in the world, the 19-year-old Frenchman has been the biggest revelation in world football, and will likely be viewed as the best defender in world football for years to come.
Varane’s professional career began with Ligue 1 side Lens in 2010, and with the season nearly halfway through, there was already intense speculation about him moving on to a bigger club. Varane eventually signed with Real Madrid in June 2011 and made his debut early on in Madrid’s 2011-2012 campaign.
Still, Varane was never expected to get so much playing time this quickly. With fellow defenders Raul Albiol and Ricardo Carvalho in Madrid’s team, Varane could have easily been loaned out in order to get first team experience elsewhere. But Madrid knew that Varane could contribute, and in his 38 total appearances, Madrid have only lost 3 matches.
Of course, that record cannot be entirely attributable to Varane, but his poise in big matches so far has made the best players in Europe take notice. Zinedine Zidane described him as the best French central defender since Laurent Blanc, while Barcelona center back Gerard Pique marveled at his ability to perform in the always intense ‘Clasico’.
Now almost 20, there is little doubt that Varane will one day be the highest-paid defender in the world. But for now, the €10 million transfer fee that Real Madrid paid for his rights seem to already be paying dividends. In the summer of 2011, Varane signed a deal for a €1 million base salary, with an increase of €200,000 each season through 2016. Because of his play, we can expect that contract to be re-structured sooner rather than later.
As time passes, Varane is also set to become a mainstay in the French national team lineup. He made his French debut in the first of France’s two World Cup qualifiers on March 19, and will likely be the full-time starter (barring injury) throughout the rest of qualifying.
Real Madrid is being cautious in heaping too much praise on Varane, and by all accounts he is a humble, hard-working player who does not seem to be affected by the major spike in attention. He is also surrounded by superstars at Madrid, which allows him to blend in and continue to sharpen his defensive acumen against some of the world’s best attackers. Nevertheless, Varane is a likely favorite for the PFA Young Player of the Year Award—something no Frenchman has won since Nicolas Anelka in 1998-1999. From there, we can only expect his value to increase.