Does Raphael Varane owe Jose Mourinho?
As Manchester United fans prepare to welcome Raphael Varane, their thanks should be extended to former manager Jose Mourinho, who gave the French defender his first start in football.
That’s according to, erm, Jose Mourinho, who included Varane in an extensive list of players the Portuguese manager once pointed to in order to silence those who claimed he never gives young players a chance.
Jose Mourinho’s first United press conference.
Cast your minds back to summer 2016 when Mourinho was unveiled as the new United manager and gave the first of many bizarre press conferences during his time at the club.
Snapping back at claims that he wouldn’t give young players a chance at Old Trafford, Mourinho produced a list which supposedly backed up his claim that he had “promoted 49 youth players from academies” throughout his career.
He specified that they were “academy players and/or under-21 players” who made their debut under him at previous clubs such as Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
The names on the list were said to have been “colour-coded in green, red and blue,” alas, a passing journalist spilled water all over it and all the colours ran into one. “Forget it,” Mourinho is quoted as saying, per The Guardian. “I will email.”
Raphael Varane was given his Madrid debut by Jose Mourinho.
That he did, with United later issuing the list, which now contained 55 players including the likes of Arjen Robben, Marko Arnautovic, Kurt Zouma and, yep, United’s imminent new signing Varane.
However, while an 18-year-old Varane did make his Real Madrid debut under Mourinho in September 2011, what wasn’t mentioned in the thesis was that the Frenchman had already played 23 times for Lens in Ligue 1 before moving to the Spanish capital.
Furthermore, just 11 of the names on the list had ever played a total of 90 minutes or more under the now AS Roma boss.
“Rafael Varane is one of the best players in the world.”
Varane would eventually play under Mourinho for two seasons, making just 24 appearances in La Liga during that time. He would go on to play a further nine seasons at the club after Mourinho’s departure and heads to Old Trafford with a trophy collection that includes three La Liga titles, four Champions Leauges and a World Cup winner’s medal with France.
In 2019, during his ill-fated Tottenham days, Mourinho again pointed to his role in developing the defender, sarcastically responding to further criticism of his record with young players by saying: “Scott McTominay only the best player at Manchester United, Rafael Varane is one of the best players in the world. It’s fair criticism, yeah.”
In fairness to Mourinho, McTominay probably owes his former manager something for aiding his development at Old Trafford but for many, the Varane claim remains a stretch too far. As does that of Arjen Robben, who played 127 senior matches before linking up with Mourinho at Chelsea.
Earlier today, it was reported that 28-year-old Varane’s transfer to Manchester United could be completed in “hours or days”