A rolling stone gathers no moss and the engravers have barely finished carving Manchester United’s name onto the Premier League trophy before Sir Alex Ferguson has begun the process of strengthening his squad for the coming season. Ferguson claimed that he was hoping to bring in around three players for the squad. One of course will be a replacement for the magnificent Edwin van der Sar and a creative midfielder to take over from Paul Scholes looks to be on the cards as well. But the one signing that seems closest at the moment is French youngster Raphael Varane from Lens.
The 18-year-old central midfielder is regarded as one of the hottest prospects in France. Varane is quick, strong and possesses excellent ability in the air. Furthermore Ferguson will be very intrigued by the fact that Varane is comfortable playing a defensive midfield role. Since Owen Hargreaves perpetual injury problems occurred United have not had a classic holding player and have been using Michael Carrick as a defensive screen. Varane would offer a more traditional type of holding player. While Carrick’s game is built around reading the play and intercepting passes, Varane is more physical and is much stronger in the tackle.
Although a deal for Varane seems increasingly likely there are numerous stumbling blocks before the transfer can go through. Firstly there is the issue of the fee. Lens are believed to be holding out for around £10m given Varane’s youth and incredible potential. United are unwilling to spend so much although, as the deal for Chris Smalling showed, they are not averse to doing so if they feel that the defender is worth the money. The likelihood is that a deal will be arranged which will max out at around £10m but will be based around various add-ons which will depend on the amount of playing time Varane gets and United’s success over the next few years.
The second potential difficulty is Varane’s reluctance to move to a club that will not give him the amount of playing time he feels he needs to develop. While many young players move to bigger clubs far too early and harm their development by doing so Varane is aware of the need to improve his craft before making the step up. While his desire to prioritise his own development ahead of financial gains is admirable there should still be few concerns in the Varane camp given how Ferguson has brought through youngsters time and again. From the Fergie Fledglings of Ryan Giggs and David Beckham through to the da Silva twins and Javier Hernandez today, Ferguson has an iron-clad reputation for helping bring through young players. Although there is always an element of risk in moving to a new club it is hard to think of a manager that has a better history of youth development than Ferguson. Along with Smalling, Jonny Evans and the da Silva twins, Varane would give a very youthful look to United’s defence next season as they prepare to defend their crown once again.