Raphael Varane could be on his way out of Manchester United in the January transfer window, according to reports.
Varane’s season has been marred by injury, and upon his return, he seems to have lost his starting role that was once considered secure, with Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Jonny Evans taking precedence even in the long-term absence of Lisandro Martinez.
The situation sees Varane unable to secure a spot in the starting XI ahead of a centre-back who was part of Leicester City’s relegation squad last season, intensifying the speculation surrounding his potential departure.
With the January transfer window opening in a matter of weeks, there are rumblings that United could be prepared to part with a player who was an undisputed first-team star just a matter of months ago.
The Sporting News takes a look at why the Frenchman has lost his place in Erik ten Hag’s side and what team he could potentially leave Old Trafford to join.
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As reported by Sky Sports in Germany, Bayern Munich, the reigning champions of the Bundesliga, have reportedly held internal discussions regarding the potential signing of Varane.
The 30-year-old could be available for a relatively low fee ranging between €20 million (£17.5m/$21.9m) and €30m (£26.2m/$32.9m), presenting Bayern with a good opportunity to secure the four-time Champions League-winning defender at a reasonable cost. However, the same report suggests Varane’s salary, which is approximately €19m (£17m/$21.3m), is a major stumbling block to any potential Bayern deal.
United and Bayern find themselves in the same Champions League group, but the German side have already secured a spot in the knockout stages with a perfect record of four wins from four games. In contrast, the Red Devils sit bottom, having won one and lost three of their matches. They remain in contention for a second-place finish, as they are just one point behind both Copenhagen and Galatasaray, but victories over the Turkish side and Bayern will be vital.
Another potential avenue out of Old Trafford for Varane could be Saudi Arabia. TEAMtalk reported that Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr are interested along with Champions League clubs.
He was linked with a move to the Middle East in the summer but squashed those reports with a timely Instagram post.
Varane will no doubt be disappointed that he is seemingly now below Maguire and Evans in Ten Hag’s pecking order, even in the absence of Martinez. Even after Evans suffered an injury against FC Copenhagen, Victor Lindelof was the man preferred alongside Maguire in their most recent 1-0 win over Luton Town. He then finally saw some action when he came off the bench for an 11-minute cameo to see the game out.
Ten Hag prefers his centre-backs to play on the side of their stronger foot and with Maguire’s resurgence, Varane has seen his playing time limited. When asked why Varane was dropped for the Manchester derby, Ten Hag said it was due to tactical reasons.
“As I said, it is about tactical reasons why I chose these partnerships,” he said. “I think Harry and Jonny did well. Harry didn’t play a lot last year, so I was very happy with Rapha’s performances. I have always been happy with his performance.
“But in this moment, Harry is playing very well and there is internal competition. I always said Harry Maguire can do the job — and now he is showing he can do the job.”
Ten Hag was also asked whether he believes Maguire and Varane can play together, to which he said yes but then explained why he opts not to. “The build-up is not that fluid when one of them is playing from the left centre-back position,” he said.
Varane has not indicated publicly that he wants to leave, but if he remains on the fringes at Old Trafford, he could well explore his options. United, meanwhile, are unlikely to want a highly paid player to sit on the bench for long, particularly as they will need to sell in order to make new signings without putting them at risk of breaking financial fair play rules.
Varane has already missed 38 games due to injury since signing for United in 2021, the same number of matches in a Premier League campaign.
The World Cup winner also retired from international football in February to help combat an ‘overloaded’ schedule, but he has still suffered a worrying number of injuries.
“I gave everything, physically and mentally,” Varane told Canal+ when discussing his retirement from France duty.
“But the very highest level is like a washing machine: you play all the time and you never stop.
“We have overloaded schedules and play non-stop. Right now, I feel like I’m suffocating and that [Varane] the player is gobbling up [Varane] the man.”
Earlier in the season, Varane took to X, formerly Twitter, to express his concerns about the Premier League’s new added-time policy and the physical consequences that could have on players.
Varane, who is 30 years old, was signed from Real Madrid in July 2021 for a reported fee of around £41 million ($56.2m), signing a contract with the Red Devils until 2025.
United will be eager to recover part of their initial investment, and with just under two years remaining on his contract, they find themselves in a favourable position for negotiations.
Varane’s weekly wage of approximately £350,000 ($438,000) could put off suitors such as Bayern, however.