If the summer of 2021 could have a key word, Real Madrid would probably pick legacy.
Obviously, with the departure of Sergio Ramos after 16 years, many Madridistas will be pondering questions of legacy in regards his of all time status at the club and perhaps among the games greats as well. One might think with the conclusion of one of the biggest transfer stories of last season now over that we can settle down for a quite finish. However, with Raphael Varane also rumoured to be on the look out for a new challenge, I would argue we should also be pondering the contrasting legacy of the Frenchman as much as Ramos.
No one can argue that Rafa has been a world class servant to the club since Zinedine Zidane orchestrated his move to the team in the summer of 2011. One can only admire his patience in waiting for his opportunity to succeed Pepe as the team’s first choice and that he still managed to contribute to the club’s successes despite not strictly being the starter.
When that chance finally arrived in the 2016/17 season, Varane took it with both hands and has played more than a modest role in the club’s successes since Pepe left. Across his decade at Real, he has won 18 trophies which makes him the eighth most successful player in club history.
The 41 matches he played for the club this season brought him to 360 appearances overall and into the top 30 all time. Only five other foreign players have played more matches than him and three of those players are in the current team (Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and Marcelo). All this should make him another club legend departing the club (potentially) this summer.
And yet, when I think of Varane calling it a day on these statistics, its hard to not feel underwhelmed. This is partly because of his age. Entering his 27th year, Raphael Varane is arguably only starting his peak. Gento’s record of 24 trophies has now eluded another challenger in Ramos, however, should Varane commit to another contract in Madrid, one would fancy his chances in snatching it before long.
The foreign player record is also within his grasps, a surprise given his past struggles with injury. Between 2013 and 2017, Varane missed 50 games from injury. Since April 2017, the last time his missed more than five games with an injury, he’s missed 22 matches with just three of seeing him miss more than a single match for Real Madrid. Given the physical challenges Varane has been put through at club and international level in that time period, its an impressive statistic and suggests that he has the potential to play much more than 360 matches for Real he’s already amassed. He’s within 30 of Luka Modric and, though still far away from Benzema’s 560, it would certainly be in his range should he still be at the club late into his career.
With such historic landmarks in his reach, what remains particularly disappointing about Varane departing is that we might never see the best of him. His legacy at Real would be that of a brilliant number 2 to the club best ever center back. The small sample size of him without Ramos, the same sample size that (unfairly) tarnishes his reputation in present day, would be made permanent record at the club.
Sergio Ramos’s departure offers Varane the chance to become a legend in his own right, to define an era at the back for Madrid as the club’s most senior defender. Given how much of his career has been committed to the club, one must feel that this is a personal ambition of Varane’. One knows for certain that the thousands who have watched him grow at the Spanish capital and are hungry now for an heir to Ramos’s throne want nothing more than the Frenchman to step up to the mantle.