New Club: Real Madrid
Former Club: RC Lens
Position: Center Back (can also play as a Defensive Midfielder)
It's crazy to think that, prior to the 2010-2011 season, Raphael Varane was playing in Lens' U-19 team, and hadn't even signed a professional contract with the club.
In the span of a year, he has gone from a player in Lens' amateur team to courting interest from some of the biggest football clubs in the world, including Paris Saint Germain, Lyon, Manchester City, Manchester United, and finally, the club he signed with: Real Madrid.
So what makes the kid so great? To be honest, I don't fully know. Despite all the hype around him, there isn't much footage of his available online, considering he played in France for one of the worst teams in French football last season.
There are videos here and there of a good tackle, a couple of the goals he's scored, but no concrete collection of footage that would allow me to ascertain his potential or how good he can be.
So why then do I have him as the third best La Liga signing thus far?
Well, for one, he reminds me a lot of Pepe. He's predominantly a center back who also excels in the defensive midfielder position, and he's also good at scoring with his head.
Secondly, he's received nothing but praise from his ex-coaches, and has an excellent track record with Lens prior to promotion to the first team.
With his U-16 team, he won the Championnat National des 16 ans, and after being promoted to the amateur team at Lens, lost only once in the nine games he played with them.
Thirdly, he's already been capped three times at the U-21 level internationally for France. His first cap came on Feb. 3, 2011, when he was only 17 years old, 3-4 years younger than most other members of the team.
Fourthly, at only 18 years old, he stands at a little over 6 ft 3 in, and yet, at least on the basis of this video, is a very capable passer of the ball.
Finally, I think he's a very good fit for Real Madrid. Although its probably hard to believe, Real Madrid are actually rather short on center backs.
Mourinho has shown that he doesn't really trust Ezequiel Garay, giving him only eight appearances in all competitions last year, and Pepe has shown himself to be an excellent defensive midfielder, especially in the Clasicos vs. Barcelona.
So that leaves Mourinho with only two true, through-and-through center backs: Ricardo Carvalho and Raul Albiol. Of those two, Ricardo Carvalho is 33 years old, and likely will not be able to handle playing anywhere near the 48 games he played last season.
So, based on the above information, it seems that Varane will have opportunities next season to show his talents, and going forward can surely become a regular first team player at Real if he continues to develop. After going from amateur to Real Madrid in one season, the sky is the limit for Varane.
For more information on Varane, check out this article, but please note that Lens actually lost 2-0 on his debut, and didn't win as the article claims.