There are few clubs in the world that have more weight in the transfer market than Chelsea, but Real Madrid is certainly one of them. In fact, Los Merengues may just be the most powerful club on the planet in this respect.
If Real want a player, they will invariably get him, by whatever means necessary (usually bucketloads of cash). If they want to keep hold of a player, they generally do, not that many want to leave the Santiago Bernabeu.
Therefore, pursuing a Real player, who is still wanted by the club, could well be seen as folly, but that is exactly what Jose Mourinho is about to do. The Chelsea boss is hoping to snatch Raphael Varane away from his former club, bringing him to Stamford Bridge as the long-term replacement for John Terry, per Ben Jefferson for The Express.
Mourinho brought Varane to Madrid from Lens in 2011 and gave him his debut soon after at just 18 years of age. The Chelsea boss rates the young Frenchman, now 21, extremely highly and has made no secret of that fact. He told Yahoo Sports earlier this year (h/t Sky Sports):
"I think he is the best young central defender in the world. Already I think he's the best. A young player must be somebody who plays in the World Cup for the first time. These are players like Hazard, Neymar and Rafa Varane. Maybe I forget some others."
Varane is certainly one of the hottest young talents on the planet, but of course, this has not gone unnoticed at Real Madrid. Carlo Ancelotti may have preferred the experienced pair of Pepe and Sergio Ramos this season, but he is well aware of the qualities the Frenchman has at his disposal.
Per Inside Spanish Football, Ancelotti said of Varane in February on his return from injury:
"He has everything required to be a good defender. He has quality, speed, a good head for tactics. He positions himself well defensively and brings his enthusiasm. It’s very important that he’s not injured. He’s recovered very well."
Similarly, Real legend Fernando Hierro, who played over 600 games for the club, spoke in glowing terms of Varane, per Tom Conn for Inside Spanish Football: “There is no defender in the world like Varane at his age. He gives the impression that he has been playing for 20 years.”
The Frenchman has also responded positively to such praise from within the club. After comments from Ancelotti earlier in the campaign, Varane told Telefoot (h/t Harry Slavin for Goal.com):
"It’s flattering, it gives me a desire to continue to move forward. I play in one of the biggest clubs in the world, along with great defenders, and competition is fierce. It allows me to evolve and continue to grow."
With praise flowing between the young defender and the hierarchy at Real, it hardly paints a picture of an unhappy union.
Varane may well be disappointed that his playing time at the Santiago Bernabeu has dropped this year, but whether this means he is ready to throw in the towel at Madrid is another question. He has still made 21 appearances this campaign, and considering the number of injuries he has suffered, this is not the worst record that he could have imagined.
If he were to swap the Spanish for the English capital, then he could well find himself in an even fiercer fight for a first-team place. Terry is not about to retire just yet, while Chelsea also employ Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Tomas Kalas and are about to bring in Kurt Zouma, all of whom operate at centre-back.
Mourinho will try to persuade Varane that a move to Stamford Bridge is the right thing to do, but with Madrid in his other ear, and holding all the power in the negotiations, any transfer seems unlikely. Other than a reunion between manager and player, Mourinho can offer Varane nothing that Real cannot or will not.