Varane talks Cristiano, Benzema, Zidane, Mourinho...

Raphael Varane spoke with Onze Mondial and gave his thoughts on Cristiano, Benzema, his career and World Cup glory.

Varane talks Cristiano, Benzema, Zidane, Mourinho...
Juan Manuel Serrano Arce Getty Images

Currently in his ninth season at Real Madrid, Raphael Varane is one of the veterans of the dressing room, despite being only 26 years old. He is going through yet another strong period in his career and during the short winter break gave an interview to Onze Mondial magazine to reflect on his achievements and answer some questions about his teammates.

Varane on his early development

The French international started playing football as many do, in the garden of his childhood home, where he learned the ropes from his bigger brother.

"Since I was the little brother, I had to get the ball back, and he annoyed me a little," laughed the defender. "More than once we stopped because I was crying.

"But because I have been competitive since I was very young, I wanted to challenge him, even though he was taller than me. He trained me mentally and also in the way I play football."

This early training helped Varane join his first club at the age of seven.

"I was quite tall, and I learned all the basic technique, working on it with my father. Then I was able to play alongside my brother for a few months. I was lucky to have my brother in the team, and he was the captain.

Varane went on to explain the difficulties he had through his early teens, overcoming injuries and balancing out his football development with his school studies. He also had a growth disease and had to play through the pain that he wsa suffering.

"I have played many games with pain, but you must learn how to deal with it. Some players don't know how to do it or are unable to do so.

"I have this ability, I know my own body well. I speak a lot with the medical team and the doctors know that when I tell them something is not right I am not mistaken. This has helped my career to date."

"As a child I was told that I did not have the mindset to succeed."

Mental strength has proved to be a valuable attribute to the career of the Frenchman and he says that this is key to success, along with some talent.

"It's not 100%, but talent is only a small part. The mind is the most important thing. I don't think I was mentally gifted. There are some stars who you notice aged 10 and you say, 'He will succeed.'

"I was not [one of them]. I was good, but not a phenomenon. As a child I was told that I did not have the mindset to succeed. I was too kind, I was not bad enough."

The decision to move to Real Madrid

Real Madrid came calling one day when Varane was at the French club, Lens.

"I was talking about it [Madrid's interest] with Gervais Martel, the president of Lens. I had to accept, it was an exceptional opportunity.

"I also discussed it with my agent at that time, then with my family. It was a choice. We told ourselves that if it didn't work out we could always return."

Mourinho and Zidane

The two men Varane gives most credit for making his move to Los Blancos a reality are Zinedine Zidane and José Mourinho, although with so much going on at the time with studying he actually didn't pick up a call from his current manager.

Mourinho and Zidane deserve the credit, they were the ones who saw something in me.

"They took a gamble on me, nobody at the club knew about me other than them. In the media, in the city, nobody knew who I was, not even the players. It was like they were taking a gamble on a young player waiting to see if it paid off or not.”

Benzema continues to impress

Fast-forwarding to more recent times, Varane was quick to praise his compatriot who does his work at the other end of the pitch, Karim Benzema.

“He’s obviously at his peak. He is so calm and at peace, focused on football and right now is so strong physically.

"Benzema has embraced his role as the attacking leader and he’s delivering."

"He has embraced his role as the attacking leader and he’s delivering. He doesn’t surprise me anymore, he’s so consistent and not only with his numbers, his goals, also what he brings to the table to help the team. And he’s doing that every three days.”

Madrid pressure

Something that the defender noticed after his move was the level of pressure that goes with playing for Madrid.

"It's a different kind of pressure. Every day, there are numerous newspapers, television and radio programmes, etc. And what happens in Madrid often has repercussions all over the world. They're global.

"The pressure inside the club is also huge. The fans are extremely demanding: winning is good, but it's never enough, you always have to improve your play. A draw is catastrophic. It's a level of standards greater than at any other club. We feel this and live with it. Not all footballers can live with this. I have seen players that can't cope."

Cristiano Ronaldo respect

During the interview there was also time for a quick anecdote about former teammate, Cristiano Ronaldo. During a training session the Portuguese star shouted: "Varane, go into the middle!" to which the reply came: "I am not Varane, I am Rapha!"

"It was not disrespectful," the defender clarified. "I am super nice, I am great, even in the dressing room. I am also quite shy.

"But when there are difficult times or when you have to show your character, you can count on me. The players who have known me for a while know this. Of course, it is not the aspect of my character that you see the most or that you see first. It was not a matter of respect or disrespect, it was just a matter of 'If I am not seen, I am not considered much.' After that it was more like: 'Oh, I am also here, I also have a name.' It was more like that." Varane concluded with a laugh.

Regarding playing in the same side as the now-Juve forward.

"Great, great... On a human and footballing level I don't even have words anymore. He accomplished something extraordinary: he made his incredible achievements seem banal.

"And to do that... There are no words to explain it, it's huge, it's extraordinary. He taught me a lot and also surprised me. How many times have I said to myself: 'Wow, this is incredible.'"