This can’t be the best of times to follow Les Sang et Or your team sits precariously in the relegation zone while you look up at your biggest rivals on the brink of their first title since 1954. With the dark clouds circling overhead the Stade Felix Bollaert fans in the Marek stand are beginning to look towards the ray of sunshine coming from the centre of their defence.

Back in November Lens recorded only their third clean sheet at home when they beat Montpellier 2-0. Lining up in the centre of defence in place of Alaeddine Yahia was 17 year old Raphaël Varane, his debut went mostly unnoticed but now thirteen games later and Varane is one of the hottest properties in Ligue 1.

The team failed to win any of the next six games under Coach Jean-Guy Wallemme and subsequently he was handed his P45. In Wallemme’s last game Varane was asked to play in central midfield, most of the game he was used as a fifth defender dropping back deep to cover Bordeaux’s attackers. Lens lost a late equaliser and Wallemme was gone, however the young defender’s stock was rising.

New coach Romanian Laszlo Boloni has brought on Varane in leaps and bounds in only a short space of time. The former Nancy, Monaco and Rennes coach is known for bringing through Ricardo Quaresma and Cristiano Ronaldo while he was at Sporting in Portugal and now he is working wonders with Lens next crop of youngsters. Boloni has shown great faith in Varane playing him in a mixture of centre back and midfield and at no time has he looked out of his depth.

In January when Lens travelled the short distance down the road to the Stade Lille Metropole home of arch-rivals Lille, instead of cowering away and letting the occasion get the better of him Varane stepped up and became a leader of his team. Lille were leading the way in Ligue 1 and carrying a reputation for scoring goals. The pre-match predictions were for Lille’s run to continue. Lens had other ideas, Varane played superb in the back four, and dealt with everything the home side threw at them. With Lille’s “Plan A” not working against Varane and co. Rudi Garcia made a couple of changes and Lille sneaked a 1-0 win. Lens were beginning to look better organised under Boloni but results still wouldn’t go their way, but with Varane in the team there was room for optimism.

At the tender age of 17 Raphaël has a very imposing frame, standing at 191cm tall and showing a strong physique, with time to develop there is a great chance by the time he is 21 he will tower over most players in Ligue 1. To match the mature build he has already developed Varane has also shown great maturity in his play, the phrase “an old head on young shoulders” has already been used many times to describe the youngster.

At the age of seven Varane joined local club Hellemmes, after playing in the Arrondissement of Lille for two years and after much interest in his home town club he decided to join RC Lens. By 2008 Raphaël had quickly moved through the youth ranks and was playing in the Under 16’s. Only a year later and despite being two years younger than most of his teammates Varane was then promoted to the Under 19s.

Promoted again to the reserve team in 2010 it was only after ten appearances in the CAF that the call came for Varane to move up to the first team. It’s not just in club football that the defender has seen his career fast-tracked, already he has earned caps for Les Bleues at Under 18 and 19 level. And with Philippe Mexes out with a knee injury there has been talk of Varane receiving a call up by Laurent Blanc to the full national team.

The speed of Varane’s ascent has been no fluke; the outstanding ability he has shown so far vindicates the rise he has made in the first team. His huge frame makes him commanding in the air and he is also not afraid to stick his foot into a tackle. With his versatility to move into midfield he is also able to read the game well and with this comes a good sense of positioning. His passing is not the greatest but with a player so young it will easily improve over time.

RC Lens are on the brink of once again being relegated to Ligue 2 and with relegation comes the pressure to sell off your most valuable assets. It would be a disaster for Lens if they had to sell Varane after not even completing a whole season for the club. Making his way through the ranks since he was 9 years old, with so much time and effort invested in his development it would hurt the club to lose him so soon.

Already all the big name clubs have shown interest in the 17 year old: Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, As Roma and Bayern Munich the list goes on and on. It would be a credit to the team and the league if Raphaël was to stay with the club and help them back into Ligue 1.

For Ligue 1 to continue to improve and grow as it has been over the last few years the league needs star players, at only 17 Raphaël Varane has shown to be a young exciting player. With the coaching and training he is receiving at Lens in a few years he could be a jewel in the Ligue 1 crown.

 

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5 comments

April 18th, 2011

Sounds like a very promising player indeed. Looking forward to seeing him in action especially ahead of the mediocre Yahia.

Nicely written my friend.

Andrew

April 18th, 2011

Nice to see you still keeping an eye on the Ligue 1 players. Since I have you to blame for my obsession :)

April 18th, 2011

[...] Lens defender Raphaël Varane seems set for a big future. Andrew Gibney profiles the 17-year-old on his own site excellent site here [...]

May 16th, 2011

[...] last month Lens defender Raphael Varane was profiled as one of our Ligue 1 20 for 20 – players to watch. In the piece it was mentioned how many clubs were keeping an eye on this [...]

June 15th, 2011

[...]  By the time he’s 20, everyone will know who he is. If you can’t wait a couple of years, here is something I wrote on the Gib Football Show back in [...]

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